A company that plans to produce electric vehicles is apparently headed to Whitley County and should employ over 50 people in a few months.
Global Green Cars Inc. President Brooks Agnew said Tuesday afternoon that his company is relocating its research and development operations to Williamsburg and plans to produce an electric truck at a facility being opened there.
The plant will temporarily be housed in a vacant existing facility in Williamsburg. Plans are to eventually build a 160,000-square-foot facility when production gets up to full strength in about two years, Agnew said.
Starting out, the plant would have about 28 jobs on first shift and slightly fewer than that on second and third shifts. Eventually, the plant could employee between 500-550 people, Agnew said.
"The Whitley County Fiscal Court has worked with Global Green Cars to bring them to our area and welcomes them," Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White Jr. said in a press release Tuesday afternoon.
"The excitement generated from this move will be a great benefit to our county providing sought after employment opportunities."
The company plans to produce its G-3 electric powered trucks, which are modeled after small Chinese vehicles.
The company would get the frames for the vehicles, which are significantly lighter than their American counterparts, from China and ship them to the United States, company officials said this summer.
"What we are looking at right now is Williamsburg being the main site," Paul J. Campbell, an Economic Development Consultant with Global Green Cars Inc., said in June. "Out of Williamsburg would come the technology end of it, such as electrical components, motors and drives.
"We are looking at some other areas where we may do the actual assembly process. The actual technology end of it will be here in Whitley County."
Agnew said the company also hopes to eventually build a small commuter car at its Williamsburg facility.
"We are heading that way right after the 15th of September. We are going to Detroit with a new truck to go through a federal motor vehicle safety standard audit, then we will be heading down to Kentucky," Agnew said.
"Our first shipping containers with subassemblies arrives this month. We will be moving those down to Williamsburg, and starting to construct the vehicles that will be crashed in January."
In addition to vehicles made for crash testing purposes, Agnew said that there would also be initial vehicles for public demonstrations.
"One of the trucks, the one that is licensed to drive on the road, will be on display at Paul Steely Ford," Agnew added.
He said that only a small number of trucks would initially built.
"Once we get through crash testing with the truck, we will start up at a rate of about 300 trucks per month," Agnew said. "As the new industrial park is finished there in Whitley County, we will be ramping up to somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 vehicles per month."
The fiscal court currently has an option to purchase a 100-acre tract located just outside of Williamsburg in the Savoy area that would serve as an industrial site and potential new home for the Global Green Cars.
The proposed purchase price is $380,000, and the land is located near the junction of the Clearfork and Cumberland rivers.
Agnew said he feels there is more than enough demand for electric vehicles.
"If we made 2.5 million vehicles per year, we would meet the demand for electric vehicles in the United States. It is going to take 10 to 20 major car companies to meet that demand. It cannot be met with the current companies that are in America," he said.
"We have a small futuristic commuter car that should be out the first quarter of 2010, then we will probably go in production in the summer of 2010. The demand for this car is off the charts. We have so many orders for this car that we could not meet it in a year."
Agnew said that expansion at the Williamsburg plant partially depends on the economy and as financing frees up.
"Since the financial situation is what it is and every car maker is facing the same challenge that we are, we have to move forward with our philosophy of staying out of debt and meeting the demand of our customers. We will ramp up as funding allows," he said.
So far, Kentucky has kicked in $15.3 million worth of economic incentives for the company.
"That was way better than any state that we went to, and those incentives have already been contracted and are in place. For that we are more grateful than you can imagine," Agnew noted.
He said federal stimulus money has gone to major automakers rather than electric car companies.
"The rest of the money has to come from private financing and equity," he noted.
On April 14, officials with Global Green Cars visited the Corbin Speedway to give local officials the chance to test drive a 1994 Geo Metro that had been converted to electric use in 1995 when gas was still 95 cents a gallon.
The idea for the electric car was a little ahead of its time, and was mothballed by the company for several years until gas prices shot up to $4 a gallon last year.