Joby Aviation narrows down to Ohio or North Carolina for new air taxi factory

Joby Aviation is on the verge of choosing the location for its electric aircraft factory, with the choice now between Ohio and North Carolina, according to multiple sources who spoke to TechCrunch on condition of anonymity.

The California-based startup, which went public in 2021 via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, is developing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for commercial service, as well as for the U.S. Department of Defense. The Toyota-backed company also has a partnership lined up with Delta Air Lines for airline customers traveling to and from airports. Joby and Delta are looking to roll out the service in New York and Los Angeles first.

Joby occupies a 120,000-square-foot facility at Marina Municipal Airport in Marina, California, where it produces pilot prototypes and conducts testing of its aircraft. But the company, keen to grow, has plans to build a large-scale factory.

Joby has been deliberating for months over where to build the 580,000-square-foot aircraft manufacturing facility. Multiple states, including California and Michigan, have been competing to land the deal. Joby CEO JoeBen Bevirt told investors during the company’s second-quarter earnings call that there has been a “remarkable amount of interest” from states in hosting this facility.

Marina and the Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport in Detroit were reportedly on the company’s short list for where to set up shop. Now sources tell TechCrunch that Ohio and North Carolina are the two locations under consideration, with both Marina and Detroit out of contention.

In response to TechCrunch's request for comment, Joby said it has made "no final decisions" on the site of the factory.

"As we have previously announced, we are in the process of selecting a location for our scaled manufacturing facility," a spokesperson said. "We have received a considerable amount of interest from states around the country and we continue to work to secure the very best long-term solution and incentive package."

North Carolina is home to many major manufacturing initiatives, including Joby partner Toyota's $5.9 billion investment in a new electric vehicle battery factory. The state has also expressed interest in attracting advanced aviation companies: In 2020, the North Carolina Department of Transportation welcomed Chinese company EHang, which demonstrated its autonomous eVTOL air taxi for the first time, in a move that was likely also meant to signal its friendliness to advanced air mobility overall.

But Joby does not have any known roots in North Carolina. Not so for Ohio, where Joby has a well-established presence. Joby registered as a company in the state that operates an electric aircraft technology simulator in the Dayton-Springfield area. An Ohio location would also put them strategically proximate to the Air Force’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Joby already has a well-established relationship with the USAF: Earlier this year, the company announced a $55 million increase to an existing contract to supply the Air Force with electric aircraft.

According to sources, Ohio has tried to sweeten the deal with a proposed incentive package of $110 million, though additional details about the incentives package are unclear.

Early last month, the company announced that it had received a key certificate from regulators giving it the green light to start flight testing its first production prototype aircraft. The Special Airworthiness Certificate from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is an important step toward achieving full FAA certification, a prerequisite to commencing commercial operations in 2025.

Setting up this new manufacturing facility will no doubt play a major role in hitting those milestones. The facility in Marina is set up to produce “tens of aircraft per year,” Bevirt told press last month; this new site would increase that number to the hundreds.

The company is also supported by a long-term partnership with Toyota Motor Corp. The automotive behemoth is Joby’s largest external investor, pouring around $400 million into the company; the two firms also signed an agreement that will see Toyota supplying key components for Joby’s aircraft.