SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The Caddo Parish Industrial Development Board held a special meeting Friday morning to discuss the current status of potential tenants inside Shreveport's former General Motors plant.
The board met with Stuart Lichter, the founder of Industrial Realty Group which the IDB leased the plant to. He is also the owner of the Shreveport Business Park.
During the meeting, Lichter faced questions from IDB members and concerned citizens about the tenant status of both Hyundai GLOVIS and Elio Motors.
"The community, when GM left, felt like a deal was going to be struck to get the same type of tenant with the same type of job," explained IDB member Kyle McInnis.
"The flow of taxpayer money and assets at that plant, it appears the tide has gone out," lamented concerned resident Marion Marks.
But Lichter argued the tide remains, regarding IRG has pumped $10 million into the plant so far despite only having one official tenant, DDR, while Hyundai GLOVIS and Elio Motors are still just leasing.
Lichter pointed to IRG's other successes with empty buildings in the past, particularly their purchase of a vacant air field in California.
"There are presently 200-something companies on-site. There are over 15,000 people employed on the site," he said.
The former General Motors plant in Shreveport is the fourth plant that Lichter has acquired and has said that he has never felt "less supported" on any project than the GM plant in Shreveport. Lichter owns other plants in locations such as Michigan.
"I have never, in 40 years, had a place where I feel less supported by the community," he said.
Other IDB members suggested more transparency from IRG would go a long way with residents.
"An attempt for some sort of balance, accountability, transparency in the event that the community feels that that's not being received," Member Zazell Dudley told Lichter.
Even though Hyundai GLOVIS leaders told KSLA they'd already hired more than 100 locals for their vehicle distribution center at the plant, they're still not classified as a tenant.
"It is a one-year lease. We have a meeting today to meet with them, sit down and see if we can iron out the points," IRG Director of Real Estate Onno Steger told the board.
But when KSLA followed Lichter, IRG and GLOVIS leaders to that building inside the North Louisiana Economic Partnership office in Regions Center, they exited the building another way without doing interviews.
Lichter said that the former GM plant does have the potential to be a working auto plant opposed to some older plants.
"The bad news is that what you don't have is the infrastructure and the community around the place and the distance," Lichter said. "They focus on the suppliers being close to them. When we look at the auto market, and we've had a number of those people here, the reaction we get is 'Oh, my God, the plant is fantastic if you could pick it up and move it.'"
Lichter said that because of the start-up costs and suppliers in the area this is the desired location for Elio. He then added that millions of dollars have been invested in Elio Motors and to keep the GM location open.
The IDB reports that Elio Motors does not owe them any payments. That is not a part of the contract with them.
Regarding Elio Motors, Lichter told the board that though he sold them the area inside the plant, he does not control their business.
"I am not the majority stockholder like the press reported. I do not control the company. I do not control their decisions," he said. "I help them to try to get them into a facility in Shreveport, Louisiana to create jobs and, if it worked out, I would profit."
Elio is still currently in a legal battle over charges from the Louisiana Motor Vehicle Commission.
Other topics discussed included an inspection of the GM building from Sept. 29, the Hyundai/GLOVIS lease in the GM building and other marketing and maintenance reports.
Regarding the condition of the old GM building, some repairs need to be made, according to officials. One of the specific topics discussed was the fire alarm system in the building. The plant is equipped with a proprietary sprinkler system from General Motors. According to Lichter, GM did not permit the use of the system, which is more than 20-years-old.