By Richard Sullins |

Less than a month after state officials announced that Vietnamese carmaker VinFast would build electric cars and the batteries that power them at a site in Chatham County, the wheels are already turning quickly in Sanford to have a training facility ready for the company at Central Carolina Community College’s newest campus by this time next year.

The company will be using the Moore Training Facility, formerly the hub of operations for Magnetti Marelli adjacent to the college on Nash Street, for the training of its workforce that will reach 7,500 by July 2024. The building will also house mockups of new vehicles that are manufactured in nearby Moncure when the plant reaches production levels.

Lee County Manager Dr. John Crumpton told the local board of commissioners Monday that VinFast “has an aggressive schedule and we want to put the giddy up to help them meet it.”

Crumpton said environmental engineers are continuing to work with the state Division of Environmental Quality on addressing the removal of the Hazardous Waste Permit that has been attached to the site since a fuel spill that occurred prior to the county obtaining possession of the property.

The county’s environmental consultant, Terraquest, submitted a 500-plus page report outlining soil reports received from the site, in addition to a recommendation for closing 23 of the 27 testing wells that the site contains. The four remaining wells surround a tank where the spillage occurred and Crumpton said this area will continue to be monitored until it meets EPA standards.

Last month, the board voted to authorize CCCC to proceed with a request for quotes for design services for the building and to begin the design phase of the project. It’s not uncommon for renovation projects like this one to take up to 18 months to complete, but Crumpton believes with all partners at the state and local level pulling together, the Moore Training Facility project will be completed within a year and perhaps sooner, if all goes according to plan.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced the VinFast project on March 29 in Raleigh, widely considered to be the largest investment in North Carolina history by a private company. Cooper said in addition to being the biggest economic development project ever announced in the state, VinFast will be North Carolina’s first OEM (original equipment manufacturer) facility, a company that manufactures and sells products another company in turn sells to its own customers, while putting the products under its own branding.

VinFast’s $4 billion investment in the plant will be located at the Triangle Innovation Point, formerly known as the Moncure Megasite, off U.S. 1 between Pea Ridge and Christian Chapel Church roads.

Inside this world-class manufacturing facility situated on a 1,977-acre plot, the company will build two types of electric vehicles as well as the battery technology that will provide the power to make them run. VinFast will be producing its VF-9, a seven-passenger all-electric Sport Utility Vehicle, and its VF-8, a five-passenger all electric mid-size SUV. By the time the company reaches its full production capacity, 150,000 vehicles will roll off the Moncure assembly line each year.

Construction for Phase I of the project will begin at the site as soon as the construction permit is issued this year with plans for the plant to be operational within two years.

The 22 acres of land at the former Magnetti Marelli site was acquired by the county on behalf of CCCC in summer 2021 and the county took possession of the property on January 1. The acquisition allows the college to expand its manufacturing and workforce development programs, and to renovate spaces for other campus services that include the library.

Crumpton told the board that the county attorney is developing a lease to allow CCCC to take over the Moore Center starting on July 1. Such a lease will have to be approved by both the commissioners and CCCC’s board of trustees.

Among the many partners who came together to make the VinFast project possible was the city of Sanford, whose willingness to extend water and sewer lines to the property will provide the life blood that makes modern manufacturing possible.