‘Four months of work in three weeks’: How North Carolina landed VinFast, the company building a $4 billion Chatham County automotive plant

Vietnamese automaker VinFast expects to start moving dirt this month in Chatham County to build a $4 billion factory.

The automaker is promising to build fully-electric SUVs at a megasite in Chatham County, creating 7,500 jobs in five years.

All this week, WRAL reporter Matt Talhelm and photojournalist Lauren DesArmo are traveling to Vietnam to see what the company is already creating in its home country and what’s to come in North Carolina.

The deal, signed in March, to bring the first VinFast factory built outside Vietnam to North Carolina is the state’s largest ever in terms of tax incentives. And it was completed in just weeks.

VinFast’s impact on North Carolina

VinFast is getting more than $1.2 billion in incentives from the state and county.

“With any program, any project, any company, there’s some risk to it, but we believe there is a past track record and financial stability in this company,” said North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Machelle Baker Sanders. VinFast was founded in Vietnam in 2017.

Sanders is confident the company will be successful in North Carolina and build up a supply chain for the auto industry in the state.

“This is a project that goes far beyond just VinFast,” Sanders said. “This is a project that has that multiplier effect for the state when it comes to the economic impact.”

There were no signs of construction yet at the Moncure megasite as of Sunday. The site is nearly 2,000 acres of wooded land with gravel roads leading into the site.

“As I tell people, if you’ve seen a forest, you’ve seen this site,” said Chatham County Manager Dan Lamontagne. “It looks like trees.”

Site prep for $4B Chatham car plant to begin soon; some jobs already posted

‘Project Blue’: The negotiations to land North Carolina’s first automaker

Lamontagne was part of the negotiations to land the state’s first automaker, which went by the code name “Project Blue.” The site marks the state’s second battery plant.

“The selection of the site alone was very fast the way it went,” he said.

WRAL News obtained 524 pages of documents from the Department of Commerce that reveal the timeline to attract VinFast.

Company leaders did a virtual site visit on Dec. 15, 2021, and they toured in person on Jan. 12, 2022. They narrowed down the future factory’s location to Savannah, Georgia, or Chatham County.

“They got very interested in the site,” Lamontagne said. “Things were looking very positive. We had a lot of really great meetings when them, and then it went kind of quiet.”

On Feb. 27, the commerce team emailed Gov. Roy Cooper’s office.

One email except read:

“Project Blue reengaged with us in a big way over the weekend.”

Another email read, “this project is moving at light speed.”

“We kept saying, ‘fast is in their name and that’s the way they operate,’” Lamontagne said.

A 24/7 war room was set up in Raleigh to seal the deal.

“We basically did four months of work in three weeks,” Lamontagne said.

It led to VinFast CEO Thuy Le and Cooper’s formal announcement in March 2022 about the company coming to North Carolina.

VinFast expects electric SUVs to roll off the North Carolina production line in two years.

“If anyone will do it fast, they will do it fast,” Lamontagne said.

WRAL: Follow on TV

All week long, WRAL News is providing live reports on VinFast from its Vietnam headquarters.

WRAL News is the only local TV station invited to Vietnam for the tour.

WRAL reporter Matt Talhelm and photojournalist Lauren DesArmo will provide a behind-the-scenes tour of VinFast’s headquarters in Hanoi, Vietnam. They will also speak with company leaders about their plans for the Chatham County megasite. They will take viewers inside the VinFast factory in Vietnam to show what’s coming to North Carolina.

Tune in at 6 am and 6 pm this week, Only on WRAL News.

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