When the factory scaled back production in the 2000s and closed in 2015, around the time of layoffs, Normal found it difficult. Suppliers were laid off and many workers left in search of new work. Uptown, an elegant, brick-lined district with a restored 1930s theater and a pair of suddenly oversized hotels, has become a monument to the city’s waning prosperity.
Local politicians and business leaders have embraced Rivian, which is based in Michigan and has locations in other states, Canada and the UK, as a way to fill the void. But in a place that has endured such changes of fortune, residents can be forgiven for wondering how long today’s good times will continue.
The transition to electric cars
Electric vehicles require less labor than gasoline-powered cars. And while Rivian’s outlook looks strong — it filed for a public offering in August, seeking a valuation of around $70 billion — the company could be overwhelmed by the listing. increasing competition. At some point, the spending race will end and the local industry will rise or fall on whether Rivian can build a large customer base.
The original foam has melted. After reaching more than 200 employees earlier this year, Weber Electric is down to about 100 people. “We wanted to shrink it a little bit,” said owner Mosier, adding that he hopes to have more workers when the plant is green. -more building lights.
In this way, the electric vehicle boom is a microcosm for a larger transition to a low-carbon economy: As governments and investors pour hundreds of billions of dollars into industries green, there will certainly be an initial shock. But will it last?
‘It’s actually stored their bacon’
Not everyone at Normal had a connection to the Rivian factory, the company’s sole production facility; it just feels that way sometimes. Sitting in the factory hallway one June afternoon, Katy Tilley, who helps oversee workplace activities like venue design and dining, said her brother, who had just left the Marines , will start working at the company next week.
“My brother works in the battery department!” Her colleague Laura Ewan, a community relations worker, said: “We were so different, our parents would never have expected us to work in the same place.”