Can a Green Economy Boom Town be Built to Last?


When the factory cut production in the 2000s and closed in 2015, Normal felt the strain as white-collar workers were laid off. Suppliers left and many workers left to look for new work. Uptown, an elegant brick-accented neighborhood with a restored 1930s theater and suddenly an oversized couple’s hotel, has become a monument to the city’s fading prosperity.

Local politicians and business leaders have embraced Rivian, headquartered in Michigan and based in other states, Canada and the UK, as a way to fill the void. But in a place that has suffered such changes of luck, it’s forgivable for residents to wonder how long today’s good times will last.

Electric vehicles require fewer workers than gasoline-powered vehicles. And while Rivian’s prospects seem strong – public offering Seeking a valuation of nearly $70 billion in August, the company could be overwhelmed by a growing list of competitors. At some point, the spending frenzy will end and the local industry will rise or fall depending on whether Rivian can build a large customer base.

The first foam is already dissipating. Weber Electric has dropped to nearly 100 after hitting more than 200 employees earlier this year. “We got some back,” said Mr Mosier, owner of the facility, adding that he hopes to add workers again as the factory green. -Lights more construction.

In this way, the electric vehicle boom is like a kind of microcosm for a greater transition to a low-carbon economy: As governments and investors pour hundreds of billions of dollars into green industries, there’s bound to be a first jolt. But will it last?

Not everyone in Normal is affiliated with the company’s sole production facility, the Rivian factory; it just feels that way sometimes. Katy Tilley, who sat in the factory lobby one afternoon in June and helped oversee workplace operations such as site design and catering, said her younger brother, who had just left the Marine Corps, will be joining the company next week.

“My brother works in the battery department!” Her colleague Laura Ewan, a public relations worker, intervened. “We were so different, our parents never expected us to work in the same place.”


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