COVINGTON, Ga. — A Silicon Valley-based aerospace company says it will create 1,000 jobs in Covington in its first manufacturing facility for commuter and cargo-carrying aircraft for low-altitude use in urban areas.
Archer Aviation Inc. plans to begin construction next month — December — on a 500,000-square-foot complex on 96 acres of vacant, city-owned land on the western edge of Covington Municipal Airport for production of electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL), Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday.
Hiring is expected to begin in late 2023 and the facility is slated to open in the first three months of 2024 on the site between Williams and Airport roads.
Santa Clara, California-based Archer plans to invest $118 million over 10 years. Production could reach 2,300 aircraft per year, a news release stated.
Covington City Council Monday morning approved an agreement for the company to lease the land as part of a tax abatement plan in exchange for producing the jobs and investment it is promising, a source said.
Georgia was chosen over Texas and others competing for the company’s first manufacturing facility, according to sources.
Adam Goldstein, Archer’s founder and CEO, said many months of discussion and evaluation led to Archer’s decision to locate the facility in Covington "as we continue to progress towards commercialization."
"Our goal of creating urban air mobility (UAM) networks across major cities nationwide requires us to ramp production of our aircraft," Goldstein said. "This facility represents a huge step toward ensuring we can meet this challenge head-on."
Glen Burks, Archer vice president of manufacturing, said the planned Covington facility "is a crucial next step in bringing our vision for eVTOL travel to life."
"We couldn’t be happier with Covington as a location and partner for this significant next step in our company’s development and growth," Burks said. "We can’t wait to break ground in the coming months and begin this new chapter in Georgia."
Archer plans to construct its new, state-of-the-art aircraft manufacturing facility adjacent to the 59-year-old general aviation airport on land that is part of a long-term airport master development plan.
Newton County Industrial Development Authority (NCIDA) chairman Lanier Sims said the Authority "could not be more excited for Archer to join our community."
"Archer fits in perfectly with our current industry mix and will be an incredible asset to the beautiful airport in Covington," Sims said.
"The Development Authority is committed to ensuring our workforce is prepared for our community's future and ready for the outstanding jobs to come from Archer Aviation. We are grateful to Gov. (Brian) Kemp and the Georgia Department of Economic Development for their leadership and continuation of keeping Georgia the No. 1 state for business."
NCIDA executive director Serra Hall said Archer’s manufacturing facility was a joint project between the Newton County Industrial Development Authority, Covington city government, Georgia Department of Economic Development, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Electric Membership Corp. Economic Development Division.
Archer Aviation “is a unique company that is setting the game apart by their forward thinking and capability to build partnerships effectively,” Hall said.
She said Archer's “ability to work in tandem with our local airport is the only key component to their attraction” to Covington and Newton County.
“The Covington City Council should be commended for their hard work and leadership. They are focused on long-term planning with large outputs for the future. This announcement is no exception,” Hall said.
Companies are choosing Newton County because of its workforce, she said.
“We have a community that is ready to work and even more appealing — creative and innovative,” she said. “Newton County is a community full of bright and cutting edge students that make our area desirable for companies.”
Hall referred to such projects as the $5 billion Rivian electric vehicle production facility and Absolics’ $600 million computer chip materials manufacturing facility landed in or near Newton County.
“Through the last year, Covington/Newton County has been at the forefront of some of the most generational announcements for Georgia. This announcement continues to solidify Covington/Newton County as a high-tech employment center of the Southeast.”
Mayor Steve Horton said he and Covington City Council members "are very excited for Archer Aviation to join our business community."
"The Covington Municipal Airport is one of many points of pride for Covington, and Archer's presence within our airport plan is another distinction," Horton said.
"Covington has always been on the cutting edge for quality jobs and new technology. Archer's aviation product, soon made in Covington, Georgia, will certainly continue the trend."
The Federal Aviation Administration in March issued draft interim guidance to support the design and operation of facilities that electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft will use for initial operations.
According to the FAA, Urban Air Mobility (UAM) "envisions a safe and efficient aviation transportation system that will use highly automated aircraft that will operate and transport passengers or cargo at lower altitudes within urban and suburban areas."
"UAM will be composed of an 'ecosystem' that considers the evolution and safety of the aircraft, the framework for operation, access to airspace, infrastructure development, and community engagement," the FAA said on its website.
The initial UAM ecosystem will use existing helicopter infrastructure such as routes, helipads and air traffic control (ATC) services where practicable given the aircraft characteristics, according to the FAA.
"Looking toward the future, the FAA is working to identify infrastructure design needs for these aircraft. FAA expects to develop a new vertiport standard in the coming years."
Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said Archer is "utilizing an innovative, state-of-the art eVTOL aircraft design" to "sustainably tackle mobility issues in our urban centers."
"Technology and innovation continue to drive change across strategic industries, and Archer Aviation is on the forefront of a technological evolution in the aviation industry," Wilson said.
"Our Center of Innovation’s specialized Aerospace team has been uniquely involved in this project, and I am proud of their continued efforts to foster Georgia’s aerospace and defense industries," Wilson said. "Congratulations to our partners in Newton County on helping us bring these jobs of the future to Georgia."
Kemp said Georgia "has made fostering innovation a priority as we work with companies to bring the jobs of the future to the No. 1 state for business."
"Our established leadership in the aerospace industry was essential to landing Archer Aviation in Newton County, and we're pleased to welcome them to the Peach State," Kemp said.
Those interested in employment with Archer can visit www.archer.com/careers for more information.