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Local and state officials along with private investors officially unveiled the new car manufacturer Wednesday that will set up shop in the former Guide plant.
The project will create 1,400 new jobs and possibly reshape the auto-manufacturing industry in the United States.
V-Vehicle is the company that has been talked about openly for weeks and for months remained a secret endeavor involving many of the area's top economic development leaders.
V-Vehicle Co. was founded in 2006 by Frank Varasano, a former Oracle Corp. and Booz Allen Hamilton executive. The vehicle design team is led by Tom Matano, who is best known as the "father of the Miata," which was named the "most iconic car" of the past 25 years by Business Week magazine.
The company is headquartered in San Diego. The former Guide plant will serve as the company's first manufacturing facility.
Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday's announcement was not only historic for the northeast Louisiana region and the state, but also for the nation.
"I remember in 2003, during the first time running for governor, coming here during a shift change right here at the Guide plant and shaking hands with hundreds of workers," Jindal said. "Unfortunately, I also remember in 2007, after being elected governor, driving by here and seeing an empty parking lot where once hundreds of workers would come to work."
"I am so excited to say that in 2011 when I run for re-election, that parking lot will be full again," Jindal added.
Jindal said while the nation faces some tough economic challenges, it is refreshing to see people willing to take a chance with a new company, especially an auto-manufacturer.
"We have all heard about the challenges facing the American automobile industry," Jindal said. "Every day we read about factory closures, downsizing and even bankruptcy. Some folks have looked at the automotive industry in the United States and concluded it has no future.
"But, some of our greatest success stories were actually born out of times of economic difficulties as innovators came together with new technology, new inventions and new companies creating high-paying jobs. Today, we are joined by some of the most revered names in business who will come together and build the next great American car right here in Louisiana.
"We have a chance here in Louisiana to re-energize the American auto industry. This can also be a game-changer for all of northeast Louisiana."
About nine months ago, V-Vehicle representatives began the search for
its first manufacturing site.
Horst Metz, vice president of Assembly Operations for V-Vehicle, admitted Wednesday that Louisiana wasn't on the company's radar. He said roughly 400 locations were selected for V-Vehicle to consider.
Several months into the process, a "little facility in Monroe surfaced."
Initially, V-Vehicle thought the former Guide plant was too small for its needs.
Regardless, V-Vehicle consultants toured the facility and recognized it had potential, Metz said. Eventually, Monroe was one of three locations in the final running.
Metz said it was the people of northeast Louisiana and the state that helped make the decision relatively easy.
"Louisiana really embraced us as a start-up company," Metz said. "And, I have to say, Mayors (Dave) Norris, (Jamie) Mayo and police jury president (Shane) Smiley really stepped up and put together the package that sealed the deal."
Metz was referring to the $15 million local incentive package the police jury and the cities of West Monroe and Monroe recently pieced together to offer V-Vehicle.
Overall, the state has offered an incentive package worth $67 million, which will help fund improvements at the facility and expand the complex.
The 425,000-square-foot facility will be doubled to approximately 750,000 square feet.
Metz also commended the state's FastStart program, which will provide, at no cost to the company, customized workforce recruitment, screening and training for V-Vehicle and its on-site suppliers.
"We are counting on that program to provide us with the talent we need," Metz said. "Honestly, we would not be here today if we didn't have faith in that program."
V-Vehicle president and CEO Frank Varasano said, "This is one of the biggest decisions we'll ever make. We are counting on the people here to help make this a success. You all convinced us that this is the right place to be. In the end, it was all about the people here. You all should be proud of the people you have representing you who did all this work. It really made this decision easy."
An economic impact study concerning the new manufacturer was recently conducted by LSU. It suggested the V-Vehicle facility would provide an injection of more than $19.6 billion in new state economic output from 2010 through 2024.
That LSU study also indicated the 1,400 direct, on-site jobs will create roughly 1,800 indirect jobs for a total of 3,200 new jobs in northeastern Louisiana. The company also would become one of the state's top 30 "economic-driver firms" based on direct and indirect job impact, according to LSU's analysis. The company also would generate more than $131 million in new state tax revenue over the first 15 years.
Also, Varasano said the expansion project will create roughly 750 construction jobs and the company will shell out about $35 million for this construction work.
V-Vehicle hopes to begin production of its new vehicle by the end of 2010.
The company expects to begin hiring within 15 months.