For over a year, the Czech state has been looking for a way to convince Volkswagen to build an electric car battery factory somewhere on its territory. With time apparently running out (the company reportedly intends to make a decision by the end of the year), the Czech government has gone all-in on a location outside Plzeň. It’s chosen the Líně u Plzně military airport and prime minister Petr Fiala said he’d be informing Volkswagen’s leadership.
He would do well to inform the city of Plzeň and the municipalities around the airport, because they’ve rejected the decision, claiming they have no information. Plzeň’s mayor Roman Zarzycký pointed out that multiple flight schools operate out of the airport, along with aerial emergency services and the army itself. According to Hospodářské noviny, Volkswagen is also considering Hungary and Poland.
“I support maintaining the airport,” said Zarzycký. “I’ll never give approval [to the gigafactory project] before we see the environmental impact, the social and infrastructure solution and where they propose get thousands of workers,” he told HN. The factory itself should employ “”4,500 people, with another 10,000 expected to work for its suppliers. Zarzycký warns that since it owns 15% of the land of the airport, it will be a participant in the planning process. On top of that, he warns “as the owner of Vodarny Plzeň, the only possible supplier of water in the region, we have a sufficiently powerful to withstand the project, which I don’t support at this moment.”
Speaking with ThePrime 18 months ago about the planned “gigafactory” as the battery factory is referred to, Pavel Sovička (Panattoni) warned Czechs could be in for a rude wake-up call. The problem, he warned, is that countries like Poland have been actively pro-investment for years. Not only are Polish cities already on board, they’ve been working with the state to prepare special economic zones that are ready to go.
“Smaller companies assume you have their permits ready and that they can start immediately,” Sovička told ThePrime (in 2021). “The bigger companies expect to spend one year on design and permitting. But in the Czech Republic you need one year just to secure the EIA. And then you need another year to 18 months to secure planning permits considering all the potential appeals and delays to the process. You’re talking about two years before companies can start building but by then most of these companies need to be producing.”
“We’re going to be taught a lesson by being rejected by these high-tech investments which could have created new jobs and great values, but now we may not be able to compete for those.”
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