Charged Up

From payments to transportation to accounting, Georgia companies have been busy seeking and making deals.

Some of Georgia’s biggest growth industries keep accelerating as the state lands plants for electric vehicles in the skies and EV parts and power on the ground, another soundstage facility opens for film and television, and financial technology businesses seek innovative connections.  

Israel’s consul general to the Southeast, Anat Sultan-Dadon (center), joins Deputy Consul General Alex Gandler and Economic Minister to North America Anat Katz at a reception for the fintech delegation Nov. 9. (Credit: Conexx)

Fintech Friendship 

Georgia is a center for financial technology. Israel is known for high-tech innovation. Marietta-based Conexx: America-Israel Commercial Alliance is, as the name implies, focused on making business connections between the Southeast and Israel. 

Thus, Conexx brought representatives from seven Israeli-founded fintech companies to Atlanta on Nov. 9 and 10—including one, Rebillia Platform, that is based in metro Atlanta, home to its Israeli CEO, Snir Avidan. 

Conexx head Richard Brooks and Rebillia COO Moran Mizrahi welcome roughly 100 people to a discussion of the future of fintech featuring Alston & Bird’s Tony Balloon (seated, left) and Chris Baugher. (Credit: Conexx)

Rebillia (subscription management), Astrix Security (cybersecurity), Credics (transaction management), FUGU (trust), GigaSpaces (app and feature development), IronVest (payment and ID security), and Reach (customer support and engagement) met with investors, toured NCR and Deluxe, and pitched themselves to about 100 people who gathered at law firm Alston & Bird to discuss the future of fintech. The audience included reps from Equifax, Finastra, and Oracle.   

For the Israelis, who typically look for business in New York, the trip was “a huge eye-opener,” says Richard Brooks, who leads Conexx. He says they had no idea of Georgia’s central role in fintech: 210 companies employing 42,000 people playing roles in an estimated 70 percent of U.S. electronic financial transactions.  

Time will tell whether any deals develop, but Conexx now has an invitation to bring a Georgia delegation to Fintech Week Tel Aviv in mid-March. 

Archer in late November unveiled the production model of its electric aircraft, Midnight. (Credit: Archer)

Buzzing in the Air  

Georgia’s electric vehicle business is taking off—literally. 

Archer Aviation, a California company developing electric-powered vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, announced Nov. 14 that it will manufacture its air EVs next to Covington Municipal Airport. 

Plant construction and production will start in 2024, Archer announced in a press release. It plans to invest $118 million over 10 years, build up to 650 of its four-passenger aircraft per year, and eventually employ 1,000 people. The facility could expand to manufacture 2,300 airplanes annually. 

Archer’s aircraft take off and land like helicopters but fly as airplanes within a metro area.  

“Our goal of creating urban air mobility networks across major cities nationwide requires us to ramp production of our aircraft,” Archer CEO Adam Goldstein said. “This facility represents a huge step toward ensuring we can meet this challenge.” 

In October, Delta Air Lines invested in an Archer competitor, Joby, to help launch an air taxi service to and from airports. Joby has told shareholders it expects to start commercial service in 2025. 

FREYR Battery has purchased 368 acres in Coweta County for its plant. (Credit: FREYR)

And on the Ground 

Aerial commuting may be the stuff of George Jetson’s dreams, but Georgia is making it a reality as it charges ahead with down-to-earth EV plans. 

Two auto parts suppliers have announced plants that will supply Hyundai’s $5.5-billion Metaplant America EV facility, which broke ground in Bryan County on Oct. 25. 

  • Joon Georgia expects to invest $317 million and employ 630 people at a facility outside Statesboro, with operations beginning in mid-2024. It is part of a South Korean conglomerate through Ajin USA, which makes body parts for Hyundai in Alabama. 
  • Hyundai Mobilis, the parts supplier wing of Hyundai Motor Group, plans to spend $926 million and employ 1,500 building EV power electric systems and integrated charging control units in Richmond Hill. In addition to supplying the nearby Metaplant America, the plant will support Hyundai’s Alabama operations and Kia’s West Point factory, which is near an existing Mobilis site.

Georgia Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson called Joon’s announcement “a landmark moment as we drive Georgia’s automotive industry into the future.” 

That future also includes Luxembourg’s FREYR Battery, which announced Nov. 11 that it will spend $1.7 billion to build its Giga America lithium-ion battery plant in Coweta County. The investment will grow to $2.6 billion with more than 720 jobs by 2029 if a planned second phase proceeds. 

FREYR makes batteries for EVs, but a bigger focus is electric storage so people can charge their EVs with clean energy even when it’s too dark to produce solar power or too still to make wind power. 

Athena Studios CEO Joel Harber speaks at the opening of the student soundstage in November. (Credit: Rebel Media & Marketing)

Athens in Focus 

Athena Studios, a $60-million soundstage complex in Athens, will open in January as the latest place where filmmakers and TV producers can take advantage of Georgia’s generous tax credits. 

CEO Joel Harber says the company is talking with multiple productions about using Athena. The full facility—four soundstages totaling 82,000 square feet and 98,000 square feet of support space—should be complete in March.

On Nov. 4, Athena unveiled a 14,600-square-foot soundstage and learning center for students at the University of Georgia and Georgia Film Academy. 

“Georgia’s thriving production industry will need talent for decades to come,” Harber said at the dedication. “We are proud to make this major contribution to our state’s workforce development.” 

Athena has purchased 65 acres next to its initial 45-acre site for possible expansion. 

Accounting for Growth 

Brookhaven-based business advisory and accounting firm Aprio is going to Washington. Effective Jan. 1, it is merging with Aronson, a firm based outside the nation’s capital in Rockville, Maryland. Aprio has 1,400 employees; Aronson has 350. Their combined annual revenue tops $350 million. The deal is the latest of more than 15 mergers and acquisitions for Aprio since it rebranded from Habif, Arogeti & Wynne in 2017. 

News About News 

The newspaper business in northern Georgia consolidated on Nov. 16 when the Marietta Daily Journal’s parent company bought six of the seven papers owned by Southern Community Newspapers Inc. 

Times-Journal Inc. added the Gwinnett Daily Post, Rockdale Citizen, Newton Citizen, Henry Herald, Clayton News, and Jackson Progress-Argus. SCNI kept the Albany Herald. In addition to the Marietta newspaper, Times-Journal owns the Rome News-Tribune, the Neighbor newspapers around metro Atlanta, and papers in Catoosa, Cherokee, Gordon, Morgan, Polk, and Walker counties. 

More Bangs and Bucks 

  • Norma Precision, recently acquired by Beretta Holding, is spending $60 million on a facility to manufacture handgun ammunition in Bryan County, creating 600 jobs.
  • At the same industrial park in Bryan County, Interstate Centre 3, apparel maker Komar Brands is building an $87-million plant expected to employ 294 people.
  • After announcing a $16-million, 200-job facility in Ashburn last December, door maker Stevens & Sons is spending $100 million and creating 170 jobs over three years with a new plant in Jackson County.
  • And the icing on Georgia’s economic development cake: Global baked-goods business Grupo Bimbo is cooking up 295 jobs by spending $200 million on a second production facility in Valdosta.