CASA GRANDE — Instead of the typical overturning of earth with golden shovels, Lucid Motors opted for a “ground-building” ceremony where company leaders and local dignitaries planted the first tree on the property.

The tree represents “the seed of the successful partnership” Lucid wants to build and grow with the Casa Grande community, said Peter Rawlinson, Lucid’s CEO and chief technology officer. The work on that connection started more than three years ago as state and local officials worked with Lucid to bring the luxury electric car manufacturer to the area, he said.

Lucid started moving dirt on the property in July but didn’t pour the first concrete footings for the new $700 million plant until last month. Monday’s event opened with skydivers floating from the sky with an American flag, a Pinal County flag and a Lucid Motors flag. More than 100 people packed into a giant tent on the property near the corner of Thornton and Peters roads. where Lucid’s 500-acre property sits.

“I’ve never actually launched a new factory. I’m as excited as everyone here,” Rawlinson said. “I think people will see through the course of this construction that Lucid really is the real deal and that we’re here to stay and that we’re going to create an amazing product here in Arizona.”

Lucid Plant

An artist rendering of the Casa Grande Lucid Motors manufacturing plant.

The plant will employ about 745 people at first, which will expand to 2,000 employees at full build-out. The total economic benefit to the area is expected to be $32 billion over the next 20 years, according to the city.

Rawlinson pledged that all of the tech, the drive train, transmission, body work, painting and assembling of the company’s electric luxury sedan would be made in-house in the Casa Grande plant.

One of the company’s $110,000 Air sedans was parked under the tent for visitors to examine.

Rawlinson said the company expects the first cars built at the Casa Grande plant to start rolling off the assembly line by late December 2020. The company plans to manufacture about 130,000 vehicles a year when the plant is finished.

The entire plant is designed to expand to meet Lucid’s future demands as production and sales ramp up, he said, and Lucid is starting work on other models, including a new SUV, which is currently in the design process. The SUV will also be built at the Casa Grande plant.

Gov. Doug Ducey touted Arizona’s progress in bringing in tech sector jobs like Lucid’s.

“Arizona has certainly shown the world, and today is evidence of it, that we are open for business,” Ducey said. He called the event “one of the most significant job announcements in recent memory.”

Ducey pointed out that Lucid looked at over 60 different markets in 13 different states before settling on Arizona and the Casa Grande area. He thanked the company for choosing Arizona and the help that local leaders from Pinal County, the city of Casa Grande and Sonora, Mexico, gave to bring the project to the area.

“Make no mistake, this investment can transform the economy for Pinal County and Casa Grande for years to come,” he said. “We can’t wait to see your state-of-the-art, made-in-Arizona vehicles on our roads and roads all across the country and around the world very soon.”

Claudia Pavlovich Arellano, the governor of the Mexican state of Sonora, was also on hand to speak. She called the plant a great economic boon for communities on both sides of the border, with more than 100 suppliers in Sonora providing parts for the plant less than 24 hours away from Casa Grande.

“That we are here today is proof that we can promote win-win economic progress,” she said.

Pinal County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Goodman touted the plant as a way to provide quality long-term jobs for local families.

“The building of this facility ties directly to our goal of creating dynamic live, work and play communities,” Goodman said. “This venture is a prime example … of how different entities can work together to accomplish great things.”

The plant is also “a prime example of how separate government entities” can work together to make something happen, he said. It’s something he hopes to replicate again and again as more new industry comes to the area.

“How excited are you?” Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland asked the crowd, which responded with cheers and whistles.

The new plant will have a huge impact on the Casa Grande community, he said, adding more than 2,000 new jobs and $6.2 million in new taxes for the city.

“We’re so excited for them to be here,” he said. “It’s going to be an amazing thing to watch.”