Joby Aviation Inc., a much-watched player in the emerging field of electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft — often called “flying cars” — will build an aircraft production operation near Dayton International Airport, valued at up to $500 million, supported by as much as $325 million in state and local incentives, the company and the state of Ohio announced Monday.
The plan is historic. Manufacturing this kind of aircraft on this scale has never been attempted, Joby and state officials said.
“Our goal is to bring flight to people’s daily lives,” JoeBen Bevirt, Joby’s founder and chief executive, said in an interview with the Dayton Daily News. “The Wright Brothers had the dream of flight more than 120 years ago, and they created that in Dayton. We’re so excited to build on the incredible aviation legacy that Dayton has.”
Joby plans to build a facility capable of delivering up to 500 aircraft per year on a 140-acre site near the airport. An existing building will begin operations, with new construction expected to be part of the project. The average salary is expected to be about $70,000, according to the state.
The company will have 2,000 jobs at the manufacturing site by about 2028 or so, state leaders said.
Those interested in applying for jobs can register interest at the company’s hiring site, www.jobyinohio.com.
» Who is electric air mobility pioneer Joby Aviation?
Construction of the local plant is expected to start next year, with operations beginning in 2025.
The site is big enough to allow future growth, with enough space to accommodate a manufacturing complex of up to 2 million square feet.
State and local incentives up to $325 million will be available, and Ohio said the U.S. Department of Energy has invited Joby to apply for a Title XVII loan to support the site as a clean energy project.
» PHOTOS: See the ‘flying cars’ that will be built near the Dayton airport in a $500 million investment
Bevirt said details regarding the property are being finalized, and he expects ground to be broken for “phase 1″ of construction next year. He confirmed the building will be near the airport, but he declined to say exactly where. It was not immediately clear which municipality will host the site.
Called simply the “Joby Aircraft,” what will be built here is an electric-propulsion, emissions-free aircraft that takes off and lands vertically, carrying a pilot and up to four passengers.
With six electric motors, a top speed of 200 mph and a maximum range of 100 miles, the craft will be able to cover in a few minutes what would take an hour or more on the ground in dense urban settings, company officials say.
“This is building a next-generation aircraft in the birthplace of aviation,” Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said.
Gov. Mike DeWine, Husted and J.P. Nauseef, president and CEO of JobsOhio, the state’s private jobs creation arm, told the Dayton Daily News the presence of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was instrumental in drawing Joby to the Dayton area.
Wright-Patterson is the heart of much of the Air Force’s research and development work, home to the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), which for years has encouraged Joby and other companies to pursue the development of electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft — also called eVTOLs or “flying taxis.”
Credit: KAEMMERLING PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO
Credit: KAEMMERLING PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO
“It’s about jobs, but it’s beyond that, as far as I’m concerned,” DeWine told the Dayton Daily News. “This is the future, and the fact that they’re going to be made in Ohio, in the Miami Valley, I think this is one more signal to people who are looking at where to go with their company, that Ohio is just a very welcoming place.”
‘We like the chances’
This will be the biggest economic development project announced in Ohio this year, Husted said. (Honda and LG Energy Solutions’ plan to invest $3.5 billion in a Fayette County EV battery plant, with 2,200 expected workers, was announced in the fall of 2022.)
Agility Prime, the AFRL program exploring how to develop and deploy eVTOLs, has eyed the creation of a dual-use military and civilian market for the electric vertical lift vehicles. Agility Prime is said to be the only all-electric passenger aircraft program in the U.S. government.
“We’ve had a longstanding relationship with the Agility Prime program, so the proximity to Wright-Patt is really fantastic,” Bevirt said.
In April this year, AFRL said Joby will deliver up to nine of its electric flying vehicles to the Air Force and other government partners.
The first two Joby aircraft — described as “low acoustic signature, zero-operating emissions aircraft” — will be delivered to Edwards Air Force Base in California early in 2024, AFRL said in April.
State leaders expressed confidence Joby has the financial muscle to make a brand new vehicle serving a brand new market.
But they acknowledge the risks.
“If you look at the history, you don’t do something like this without taking some chances,” DeWine said.
This is an emergent industry, Nauseef noted. ”We like the chances, and we believe they are very confident,” he said.
“We have to assume some risks, just as their investors assume some risk,” Nauseef added. “If they’re going to do it, their best chance is in this community.”
“This is a start-up company, and obviously it has to be successful for this to really realize all that we hope for,” Husted said. “But all indications are that Joby is a leader, if not the leader, in this space.”
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Skyvision
As the civilian and military workforce at Wright-Patterson has grown from about 19,000 people in 2002 to some 35,000 today, that attracts new companies to the region, companies wishing to work with AFRL, the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) and the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) and other crucial Air Force missions, all headquartered on the base.
“Through AFWERX’s Agility Prime program we have worked with several companies to accelerate the development and adoption of advanced aerial mobility technologies, such as electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, and we’re thrilled to see the results of that investment strengthening the defense industrial base,” Brig. Gen. Scott Cain, AFRL commander, said in a statement for this story.
Important as well has been the establishment of Skyvision drones testing at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport.
The Ohio UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) Center, AFRL, the Ohio Department of Transportation and others invested $5 million to develop SkyVision, a ground-based detect-and-avoid radar system at the Springfield airport. The system uses FAA radar systems to track drones flying beyond what a drone operator can see.
Another Joby connection to Springfield and the Dayton area: The company has permanently situated a flight simulator at Springfield-Beckley.
But while Ohio is home to Wright-Patterson and the state has long seen itself as the birthplace of aviation, a large-scale manufacturing operation of aircraft has eluded Ohio.
Until now, state leaders hope.
Said Husted: “With this announcement, that aspiration becomes reality. To me, that’s what’s so special about this.”
Bevirt offered three reasons for coming to the area: Workers, government incentives and Wright-Patterson.
“No. 1 is the manufacturing workforce, the talent and I was really impressed by the quality of life (in the Dayton region),” Bevirt said. “No. 2, the JobsOhio team and the package of both state and local incentives, and the flexibility of that.”
Another piece was the presence of existing facilities and what Bevirt expects is the ability to start hiring soon.
‘Big thinking, big vision’
State leaders see this project as two decades in the making, a result of establishing Wright-Patterson as a primary focus of economic development efforts in the Dayton-Springfield region.
“We were in a long competition to secure this, and we won,” Husted said.
State officials and Bevirt declined to discuss who the finalists were for Joby’s location decision, but some reports pointed to Ohio and North Carolina.
“This was incremental, but it was based on big thinking, a big vision and a big dream,” Nauseef said.
DeWine and his wife Fran spent a day with company leaders in Yellow Springs and Greene County as part of the effort. A team of Ohio and Dayton advocates spent months making the case for placement of this work in the Miami Valley. Joby principals were also introduced to Air Force and Wright-Patterson leaders, Nauseef said.
“It wasn’t linear,” the JobsOhio CEO said. “There were ups and downs along the way.”
Said Husted: “It was not the most lucrative incentives package, and we knew that. We knew that because we were told that.”
‘Come here to test, stay here to build’
When Husted spoke at the Dayton Development Coalition’s annual meeting in February 2022 and challenged coalition leaders to land an eVTOL manufacturing facility in the region, “We were ready,” said Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the coalition.
“Twenty years ago, we developed a strategy aimed at supporting an emerging industry that not only aligned with the missions at Wright-Patt, but represented the opportunity for private industry investment, as well,” Hoagland said. “Our region’s eVTOL tagline has urged companies to leverage the region’s network of resources and, ‘Come here to test, stay here to build.’ Joby is doing exactly that.”
Dayton’s history in flight invention remains a draw for companies, Ohio politicians said.
“Joby Aviation is a leader in aviation innovation and a pioneer in the air taxi market,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton. “Today’s announcement that Joby has chosen the Miami Valley for the site of its new manufacturing facility further signals to other companies in the aviation and innovation space that the spirit of the Wright Brothers in this region is alive and thriving. I look forward to further working with Joby to grow the future of advanced air mobility here in Dayton, the birthplace of aviation.”
A 10 a.m. event to celebrate the announcement was held Monday at Hawthorn Hill, the home of Orville Wright. The event concluded with a ceremonial flight of a replica Model “B” Flyer, the world’s first production airplane.
“Ohio is the undisputed home of aviation,” Sen. J.D. Vance said. “I’m excited that new, innovative flight technologies have found a home in the Dayton area, just miles away from where the Wright brothers started it all. We want to see Ohio become the research, development, and manufacturing hub for the future of military and civilian aerospace technologies. Joby Aviation’s new investment is a welcome step toward advancing that goal. I look forward to working with them and wish them the best of luck.”
The state cautioned that realization of the project is contingent upon due diligence, state and local approvals of incentives, permitting and other legal and regulatory matters.