Raleigh, N.C. — Another auto manufacturer has opted not to build its new plant in North Carolina, this time passing up the Southeast United States altogether.
Jaguar Land Rover, which was considering several sites in Southeast, including North Carolina, announced Tuesday that it signed a letter of intent to build a manufacturing plant in the western Slovakia city of Nitra. In a press release, the company said its final decision on the plant will come later this year after it conducts a feasibility study.
"With its established premium automotive industry, Slovakia is an attractive potential development opportunity for us," Ralf Speth, Jaguar Land Rover's chief executive officer, said in the release. "The new factory will complement our existing facilities in the UK, China, India and the one under construction in Brazil."
N.C. Department of Commerce Director of Communications Kim Genardo confirmed Thursday evening that Jaguar Land Rover was looking at potential sites in North Carolina. In an email, Genardo said she was only aware of what the company announced in its release.
North Carolina leaders have long coveted a major auto plant for North Carolina, which would bring both jobs and spur economic growth through suppliers. Former Commerce officials even attribute North Carolina's two decade-long buildup of incentives programs to the loss of a giant Mercedes plant to Alabama in 1993.
More recently though, the state's ongoing battles for auto have ended in prominent losses.
In May, rivaling South Carolina announced Volvo Cars would build a $500 million facility outside of Charleston that would eventually employ 4,000 people. Records released by the N.C. Department of Commerce in June showed the company visited North Carolina to tour three so-called megasites in Chatham, Edgecombe and Randolph counties.
Earlier this year, Mercedes-Benz USA also passed up North Carolina sites to move its headquarters to Atlanta.
Despite those announcements, state lawmakers have been slow to heed calls from Gov. Pat McCrory and his commerce secretary for more incentive programs to recruit companies to the state. An effort to expand those programs failed in the General Assembly last year, and competing proposals from the House and the Senate have been swept up in budget negotiations that have now dragged on six weeks past their deadline.
The Senate separated its economic development proposal from the budget and sent it to the House Tuesday night. Among tax breaks for airlines and data centers, the measure would extend the Job Development Investment Grant program by three years, increasing the amount state officials could commit annually to incentives by $5 million, to $20 million. It would also raise the annual cap to $35 million if the state lands a "high-yield" project that would bring in more than 2,000 jobs. That threshold matches the scale of many large-scale car manufacturers.
House lawmakers, however, have balked at another portion of the proposal that would change how sales tax revenue is distributed between rural and urban counties. McCrory has said he would veto any such measure.