Rauner calls into WJBC to clarify harsh Rivian remarks, "I'm a big advocate for Rivian."


After making some confusing assertions earlier this week, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner called into the Bloomington-based radio station, WJBC, to clarify his remarks on Rivian Automotive. 

Rauner previous remarks stated, "That plant (Rivian's plant in Normal) should have well over 1,000 people today," and that, "They, sort of, were pretty much given the plant." 

Contrary to Rauner's remarks, the company is ahead of its hiring goals and paid $16M in cash for the plant in January 2017. 

On air with WJBC's Sam Wood, Rauner stated that he "loved" Rivian and is "cheering" for the company. Rauner also added, "I am a big advocate for Rivian."

Rewind: Rauner Criticizes Rivian for not employing, "well over 1,000 people"; despite the company being ahead of estimates

Rather than condensing the conversation, you can read or listen to the entire interview below.


Governor Rauner: So quickly there is some spin out there that I’m critical of Rivian, or don’t think Rivian’s good or going to do well and that’s just not true. I love Rivian. We worked hard to recruit them. We cut a deal to give them an EDGE tax credit. I’m all in for them to succeed.
What some of our political opponents are taking out of context is my concern that our regulations and our taxes are not competitive and attractive for manufacturing firms, especially auto companies. The auto industry is booming around the country especially in Indiana and other states. We are not booming like they are we had a hard time finding someone to take that Mitsubishi plant. It had 1,000 UAW workers there and I want tens of thousands of UAW jobs created in Illinois, but our regulations and taxes are pushing us out.
So we took a gamble with Rivian, they’re at 40 employees, which is awesome, they hope to add hundreds and we gave them EDGE credits to do it, but it’s frustrating because if we had better competitiveness as a state, we could already have thousands of jobs working in and around that facility. That’s, that was the point I made and it’s being spun, I think, in not a valid way.
Wood: You can understand why a lot of people in Bloomington/Normal feel like, you know,  this is not the first time you have failed to mention Rivian automotive. At the Kemp Forum, you completely dismissed the fact that there is an occupant inside that former Mitsubishi Plant, it’s Rivian. So why? Why the confusion? Why do you forget that that plant is occupied?
Governor Rauner: It’s not forgetting, and it is not being critical of Rivian. The fact is if we were competitive if we had the regulations and the tax structure to be attractive to major manufacturing firms that plant would already be full. That’s not a criticism of Rivian, I’m cheering for them – we worked hard and I worked hard to bring them.
Wood: Governor, Where does the 1000 employee number come from? Were you not aware of the benchmarks that were set up as a part of these tax incentives that were offered to Rivian?
Governor Rauner: Rivian has nothing to do with the 1000. We hope they get big, we don’t know how big – they are a startup. The thousands were what, who was there before, Mitsubishi.
Wood: Well it was more than a 1000
Governor Rauner: Well that’s how many at the very end, but it was way more than a 1000. We could have had thousands of folks there if we were competitive, that’s my point. That’s my only point. It is not at all critical of Rivian, Rivian is a great startup. We want more high tech startups in Illinois. But that plant could have and should have been full of UAW members if we were competitive. That was the point I was making.
Wood: Do you disagree with the fact that Rivian is meeting their benchmarks in terms of what was agreed upon?
Governor Rauner: I haven’t looked at their latest benchmarks, they are a startup doing well and we are cheering for them, and I am a big advocate for Rivian. Different issue what could have been in the plant if we were competitive, that was the point I’m making.
Wood: Fair enough. Governor Rauner, thank you for calling in and taking the time.
Governor Rauner: We are all for growing the economy in McLean County, I am there a lot. We want booming manufacturing in Illinois, both start-ups as well as established firms and if we can make our economy competitive we will get that done.