Last month’s US Supreme Court ruling on abortion made for some strange bedfellows, as state legislators court the idea that not even a rocket scientist is fit to manage their own pregnancy. A case in point is North Carolina, which is aspiring to grow its tech sector. Last week Republican legislators in the Tar Heel State have welcomed a new EV factory, launched a new effort to support women in STEM, and pledged to stop pregnant people from managing their own pregnancies, practically all in the same breath.
A New VinFast EV Factory For North Carolina — And It’s A Big One
CleanTechnica has been following the rapidfire progress of the up-and-coming EV maker VinFast over the last couple of years, which includes a foray into next-generation solid-state batteries.
Based on the timing, it looks like North Carolina will be the epicenter of US production for the new EV lineup from VinFast. The company is based in Vietnam and has been eyeballing the US zero-emission mobility market since its launch in 2020.
VinFast is a no ordinary startup. It’s an offshoot of the powerful Vietnamese firm Vingroup. The North Carolina venture illustrates how money comes to money.
VinFast announced plans for its new North Carolina electric vehicle factory in a press release last week, which detailed a veritable shower of love pouring forth from the state, in the form of a $1.2 billion incentive package to cover more than half of the $2 billion estimated total investment for just the initial phase of the project. The package includes:
- Job Development Investment Grant of $316 million over 32 years
- State appropriation of $450 million, to cover site preparations, road improvements, and additional water and sewer infrastructure.
- Community college training worth $38 million
- Golden Leaf Foundation grant of $50 million [note: Golden Leaf administers tobacco settlement funds in North Carolina]
- $400 million in incentives from Chatham County
“The largest economic incentive package in state history was signed this week by Governor Roy Cooper, making VinFast the first car maker to locate in the North Carolina,” the EV maker emphasized.
“Covering an area of 2,000 acres, with two main areas: electric cars and buses production and assembly, and ancillary industries for suppliers, VinFast’s factory is designed to reach the capacity of 150,000 vehicles per year,” they elaborated. “When brought into operation, the manufacturing complex will create an ecosystem of suppliers as well as thousands of local jobs, thereby creating both direct and indirect economic benefits.”
As described by VinFast, the new EV factory will be the first car manufacturing facility of any kind in North Carolina. It is also the “the largest economic development project in the state’s history to date.”
No word yet on VinFast’s plans for gender diversity in hiring. However, the prospect of employees facing forced birth — which includes anyone with a from hiring age to menopause who happens to have a functioning uterus — will certainly complicate matters for their HR department.
Good Luck With That Women In STEM Thing
Regardless of the potential impact of new abortion restrictions on STEM education, training, and employment, the Republican-majority state legislature is aiming to grow the pool of high-skilled local talent to fill STEM jobs, including some of those thousands of new EV jobs . Last month, the Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, Tim Moore, stamped his seal of approval on the newly minted House Select Committee on Advancing Women in STEM.
The Women in STEM committee “will study issues related to developing future generations of women leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM),” Moore’s office explained in a press release.
The new committee will be chaired by Republican Representative Erin Paré of District 37, which includes the tech-aspirational Raleigh metro area and surrounding towns in Wake and Johnston counties.
“Imagination, creativity, and curiosity are essential to innovation,” Paré explains. “Women who pursue careers in STEM not only bring greater diversity to the ideas and solutions in these fields; they innovate and pave the way for future generations of women to follow in their footsteps and drive progress even further.”
“As more tech companies flock to North Carolina, the need for workers in STEM has increased in our state. My hope is that this committee can find tangible ways to support the women who are interested in these fields and encourage more women to pursue STEM careers in the future,” she adds.
New EV Jobs For Women In STEM, Or Not
If they sincerely want to support women in STEM, a good first step would be to ensure that every pregnant person has the right to manage their own pregnancy as they see fit, allowing for medically established standards of viability.
However, Paré, Moore, and other Republican lawmakers in North Carolina are skipping over that part, and fireworks are already in the works.
On the one side, North Carolina’s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has already taken action steps to secure the human and civil rights of pregnant people in his state. On the other, Paré and her Republican colleagues are determined to force birth upon people regardless of their needs and intentions.
An unwanted, unplanned pregnancy is not the first thing that comes to mind when one is aspiring to a career in STEM, but that will be the reality faced by students and employment-aged people who would otherwise expect to receive abortion services in North Carolina. Under current law, thousands of abortions are conducted in North Carolina annually, clearly indicating the need and desire for abortion services in that state.
Paré has not issued a public statement in response to the Supreme Court decision on Dobbs. However, her position on pregnancy rights is evident in her sponsorship of proposed “born-alive” legislation. The bill is similar in concept to other state and federal proposals that promote political opportunism over the standards of the medical profession.
Speaker Moore and Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger have issued public statements in response to the Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs, with Moore asserting that he is “unequivocally pro-life.” Berger added his two cents:
“…I remain committed to the right to life and protecting the unborn. North Carolina’s law banning abortions after 20 weeks is currently unenforceable. We will take immediate action to ensure North Carolina’s late-term abortion ban is reinstated. Senate Republicans will determine whether other steps are appropriate to strengthen our pro-life laws…”
Indeed! The two state leaders seem determined to press their position in the next sitting session. Our friends over at The Carolina Journal took note of a joint statement by Moore and Berger on June 24, in which they “stand ready to take the necessary steps to restore North Carolina’s abortion laws to where they were.”
The EV Culture Clash
The North Carolina legislature adjourned on July 1 and will take up the matter after July 26, when it reconvenes.
That’s right around the corner. Meanwhile, VinFast has its work cut out for it in terms of EV and supply chain workforce recruitment in the US.
The full implications of the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson have yet to spin out, but if the pregnancy police expect to enforce tight abortion restrictions in North Carolina — or anywhere else, for that matter — they will have to identify, track, monitor and surveil every person of child bearing age with a uterus.
That’s just on the government side. Private citizens are also being recruited as vigilante-style community monitors. Last fall, Texas passed a law that empowers an army of self-appointed police to sue anyone suspected of aiding an abortion. Other states are bound to follow along.
And, that’s just for starters. Republican legislators in Congress are already anticipating a national abortion ban, and Republican- appointed Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has already mapped out the steps for a national ban on contraceptives.
Clearly, it’s far too late for VinFast to pull its plans for North Carolina. However, as a leading corporate voice in North Carolina and the US, VinFast has placed itself in a position of some influence. The company is in an especially interesting spot considering the powerful role of women in Vietnam’s modern corporate culture.
As for social culture, the abortion picture in Vietnam is a complicated one, as it is here in the US. However, as a matter of law Vietnam law respects the civil rights of pregnant people, at least for the time being. Corporate HQ may need to think twice before sending its pregnant or potentially pregnant employees to the US, out of concern for employee health and safety under North Carolina law.
If you hear anything from Vingroup vice chair Le Thi Thu Thuy, who was also tapped to lead VinFast as CEO earlier this year, drop us a note in the comment thread.
Photo: VinFast VF-8 mid-sized EV, courtesy of VinFast.
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