ADVANCED MANUFACTURING PROPELS CHARLOTTE REGION FORWARD
Since its founding in 2015, Arrival Automotive has been on a quest to reinvent the automotive industry. The British provider of zero-emissions mobility solutions is committed to making cities cleaner and more efficient places to live, and its design and assembly of electric vehicles will do just that at microfactory locations that now include the Charlotte Region, home to an impressive roster of advanced manufacturers.
“The microfactory approach has let us adjust our output so that it’s sized more appropriately to support a large city or a large metropolitan area like the Charlotte Region,” said Mike Ableson, CEO of Arrival. “Our new van microfactory is sized to build 10,000 vans a year, and we believe a metro area like Charlotte can support almost all of that demand. I believe that as we see this transition to zero-emission commercial vehicles really start accelerating, we’ll see the Charlotte Region easily capable of absorbing all that output.”
When Arrival selected the Charlotte Region for its North American headquarters in 2021, it ushered in a new era for advanced manufacturing in the bi-state region. The company located its headquarters in South End, a bustling neighborhood just outside of center city Charlotte, and its first U.S. microfactory in Rock Hill, SC. The announcement of a second microfactory in Charlotte soon followed.
“I’m very proud that we’ve announced our first U.S. microfactories in the Charlotte Region,” Ableson said. “The difference with Arrival is that as we establish these microfactories, we get an opportunity to work with the cities and the communities around these facilities on how to improve the whole transportation ecosystem. We’re not just selling vehicles to the city; we’re working together on how their citizens get around the city and how we can make that whole experience better.”
Traditionally a textile manufacturing hub, Charlotte’s manufacturing industry has diversified and advanced to include thousands of firms in precision metrology, optoelectronics, biomedical technology and chemicals, among other fields. Today, the Charlotte metro is the second-highest concentrated market for advanced manufacturing materials among the top 50 metros, and manufacturing employment in the region has grown at twice the national average since 2013. In fact, manufacturing employs over 155,000 in the Charlotte Region and contributes more than $26 billion to the regional economy. It’s also the second-largest contributing industry to regional GDP behind finance and insurance.
“Arrival Automotive is more than a vehicle manufacturer. We are really very much a tech company,” Abelson said. “Arrival’s brand promise in the automotive industry is solid, but I would also argue that the software side of our company is a bit of an untold story. Our efforts on both fronts contribute to the Charlotte Region’s overall public transportation ecosystem, and it’s also part of how Arrival believes that ecosystem can be improved.”
According to the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, which collaborates to promote and advance economic development in the 15-county Charlotte Region, manufacturing remains the largest sector by employment in 10 of the 15 counties in the region. In seven of the 15 counties, manufacturing accounted for 27% or more of net new jobs in the past five years, making it responsible for much of the employment growth throughout the region. As Arrival Automotive indicates, the Charlotte Region is also poised for continued growth in the advanced manufacturing sector.
Case in point: The region benefits from a diversified industrial base and workforce; industry and education assets that support the industry; a connected region due to proximity to major markets and infrastructure assets; its strategic location on the East Coast; and a low cost of doing business. While employment in legacy manufacturing industries such as traditional textiles has decreased over the past few decades, the region is experiencing growth in different manufacturing sectors such as automotive parts suppliers, plastics and advanced textiles, machinery manufacturing and energy manufacturing. For Ableson, the Charlotte Region offers a roadmap for his company’s forward direction.
“We look forward to working with many cities across the country from our new headquarters in Charlotte, making Charlotte the blueprint for Arrival’s success over the long term,” Ableson said. “It’s so important to us how supportive the city has been as we’ve discussed Arrival’s role in the region. Everything we learn from working with Charlotte, we’re going to be able to take forward as we work with other cities around the country.”
Charlotte’s advanced manufacturing sector is poised to grow faster than ever, making now the perfect time to consider the region for your next expansion or relocation. To learn how Charlotte’s growing population, young and talented workforce and innovative spirit fuel a thriving tech sector, visit altogetherbetterclt.com.