SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - A Phoenix-based startup auto firm will be moving in to the former General Motors Shreveport plant, where they plan to create 1,500 new direct jobs by late 2015.
At a news conference at the former GM plant Thursday, the company announced it will produce enclosed, three wheeled vehicles capable of attaining a highway mileage rating of more than 80 mpg. Targeting a retail cost of $6,800, the company will position the Elio vehicle as a cost-effective alternative to four-wheeled autos. The Elio will be equipped with three airbags, power windows and air conditioning as standard features, and the company expects it to achieve a five-star safety rating. Models will be available with automatic or manual transmission.
The Elio Motors manufacturing facility will occupy approximately 1 million square feet of the more than 3 million-square-foot, former GM site. Industrial developer Stuart Lichter, who has acquired other former GM sites, will buy the 530-acre Shreveport site in conjunction with Elio Motors and lease portions of the site to other tenants.
"We plan to do what we've done in similar facilities all over the country. We will find other tenants to occupy other parts of the facility, either suppliers to Elio, or just other companies doing various businesses," said Stuart Lichter with Industrial Realty Group L.L.C.
Elio Motors is purchasing the GM plant from the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust, known as the RACER Trust. RACER is an independent trust created by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court settlement agreement to redevelop former GM locations.
"We are extremely pleased and excited to be part of the Shreveport community, and we feel that Shreveport will be the perfect home for Elio Motors," Elio Motors President and CEO Paul Elio said. "We purchased the plant in Shreveport because of the business-friendly economic environment, the quality of the local, experienced workforce, and our unwavering commitment to build Elio vehicles in America, with American workers. We can't wait to begin our journey in Louisiana."
In addition to annual performance-based payroll rebates of 13 percent of each qualifying job for the first year of operations, the company was is expected to take advantage of Louisiana's workforce training program and Industrial Tax Exemption Program incentive. The Caddo Parish Commission also is negotiating potential incentives to support Elio's redevelopment of the former GM site.
"That's one of the most attractive things about this site. In addition to the beautiful building and the equipment, at the peak of GM they had 32 hundred employees here. Some of those folks have left the community, and some of them have found meaningful employment, but the majority of them are still here. We have folks that know how to build vehicles here in Shreveport and we can't wait to hire them back," said Elio.
The company is expected to begin renovation of the facility in early 2013 in conjunction with the real estate transaction, followed by the production of prototypes. Elio Motors expects to begin commercial vehicle production in mid-2014, with significant hiring at the Shreveport facility to begin by the second quarter 2014 and full employment to be reached in late 2015.
"We are delighted and very proud Elio Motors will manufacture their new vehicle in Caddo Parish," said President Michael Thibodeaux of the Caddo Parish Commission. "This is a testament to the spirit of our community and the determination of our leaders who wouldn't give up on this great facility that once provided the livelihood for so many of our neighbors. We look forward to welcoming the Elio team to our community."
According to the office of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, the company is expected to make a capital investment in excess of $100 million, and the jobs are expected to pay an average annual salary of $47,700, plus benefits.
Though general hiring has not begun yet in Shreveport, Elio Motors and LED FastStart will publicize information about the hiring process and job fairs in the coming months as the company prepares for commercial production.
According to the company's Facebook page, Elio Motors was founded in 2008. On its website, the Phoenix-based company claims to be "the next big thing in transportation."
According to the company's website, they expect to deliver the first Elio, retailing for $6,800, in July 2014.