By CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — Lion Electric Company, a Canadian manufacturer of electric trucks and buses, will build its first U.S. factory in Joliet, creating at least 800 jobs, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Friday morning.

The company will invest at least $70 million in the new 900,000-square-foot facility, which will be the largest of its kind in the country. It’s expected to be completed in the second half of next year, and will have the capacity to build 20,000 electric vehicles a year.

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“Lion’s historic investment to bring its largest production facility to Illinois represents not only a win for our communities, but a strong step forward in our work to expand clean energy alternatives and the jobs they bring to our communities,” Pritzker said in a statement. “In Illinois, we know that a clean energy economy is about more than just vehicles – it’s about healthier communities and jobs for those who live there. We are excited to welcome Lion to the Land of Lincoln and look forward to their future success here.”

The governor’s office said the new facility will help bring Illinois closer to its clean energy goals, including plans for 1 million electric vehicles in the state by 2030.

“Lion is the leader in electric school buses and has always been dedicated to the U.S. market, and our commitment to be close to our customers is one of the core values we have as a company,” Lion Electric founder and CEO Marc Bedard said in a statement. “This significant expansion into the U.S. market will not only allow us to drastically increase our overall manufacturing capacity of electric trucks and buses but to also better serve our customers, while adding critical clean manufacturing jobs that will form the backbone of the green economy.”

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Bedard said the facility will manufacture 11 models of electric trucks and 4 models of electric buses — including . Bedard said the company plans to create at least 800 jobs in the next three years, and more than 1,400 jobs over the next five to six years.

Lion Electric has qualified for the state’s EDGE incentive program, which provides tax credits to companies that promise to create jobs in the state. The company also is applying for local tax incentives.

State officials said the tax credits will be worth approximately $7.9 million if Lion meets the minimum requirements of making at least $70 million in capital investments and creating more than 700 jobs in the first three years.

“The Lion Electric Company development is a welcome addition to the City of Joliet. The facility is going to have a tremendous impact on our local economy by the immense investment dollars and creation of high paying skilled labor positions,” Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said in a statement.  “Furthermore, this is an indicator that the City of Joliet and State of Illinois can compete on a national level for major employers and manufacturers who are seeking to grow. Thank you to Governor Pritzker for all his efforts in making this happen.”

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Meantime, the governor said the state is also using $89 million from a legal settlement with Volkswagen over its emissions-cheating scandal to fund electric vehicle and infrastructure projects, including electrifying school buses in the Chicago and Metro East areas. He is also working with state lawmakers to pass legislation offering thousands of dollars in rebates when Illinois residents purchase EVs and to build EV charging stations.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff