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|It's only a deadline|
March 1 came and went and the V-Vehicle automobile manufacturing project in northeastern Louisiana is alive and well for the time being.
That should not come as a surprise, though one would think otherwise if one took the time to read the cooperative endeavor agreement V-Vehicle Co. signed with state and local officials last year when V-Vehicle agreed to locate in Ouachita Parish. I suppose we all can interpret a written agreement to adhere to what we want it to say.
Be that as it may, as we all know V-Vehicle is a start-up company from California that has plans to manufacture fuel-efficient automobiles. It agreed last year to establish its manufacturing operation in the former Guide plant off Interstate 20 in eastern Ouachita. Some 1,400 permanent jobs would be created by V-Vehicle, according to company officials, while another 1,800 indirect jobs would surface as a result of V-Vehicle's presence in the region. Let's not forget about the hundreds of construction jobs that have cropped up and will crop up as work continues in remodeling the former Guide plant to make it suitable for V-Vehicle, assuming V-Vehicle's venture doesn't fall apart in the next month or so.
As we all know as well, V-Vehicle was supposed to have some $350 million on hand by March 1—according to the cooperative endeavor agreement—to be eligible to access the bulk of a $130 million incentives package offered by Louisiana Economic Development Corp. and a $15 million incentives package offered by local governing bodies. That would include the cities of Monroe and West Monroe, Ouachita Parish Police Jury, Ouachita Economic Development Land Corp. and the I-20 Economic Development District.
Thus far, V-Vehicle has raised some $86.5 million in private investments. That figure came to light Sunday during a teleconference call among V-Vehicle officials, Stephen Moret of Louisiana Economic Development Corp. and members of the media.
The purpose of the conference call was to inform the media that V-Vehicle had not been granted a $320 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy through its Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. The ATVM loan was a must for V-Vehicle to meet the $350 million benchmark by March 1.
It would be within reason to interpret the missed deadline as a deal-killer. Moret and others don't see it that way. They say the March 1 deadline really doesn't mean anything. I suppose the cooperative endeavor agreement itself doesn't mean anything either.
Yet, there's hope.
Frank Varasano, the founder of V-Vehicle, expressed a great of deal of confidence in that conference call that V-Vehicle would land the ATVM loan from the Department of Energy. He said V-Vehicle could know the fate of the loan by the end of March.
Moret believes Varasano. Officials in Ouachita are allowing Moret to take the lead, meaning they're going along with what Moret wants to do.
Moret wants to give V-Vehicle more time to secure its loan from the Department of Energy. Accordingly, officials in Ouachita want to give V-Vehicle more time to get its financial house in order.
It should be noted that V-Vehicle, according to Moret, will repay the state some $6.2 million on April 1 for money the state has already spent on site work at the former Guide plant. V-Vehicle is required to make the payment because it didn't have $350 million on hand by March 1, or failed to meet the March 1 deadline.
Let's get this straight.
Moret and others say the March 1 deadline didn't really mean anything, but because V-Vehicle did not meet the March 1 deadline it will pay the state $6.2 million for monies the state spent on the facility V-Vehicle will utilize if the company ever manufactures automobiles.
Call me stupid, but I don't quite understand.
I don't quite understand, but I'm an optimist.
If V-Vehicle needs some breathing room in landing a $320 million loan from the Department of Energy to raise enough money to live up to its end of the deal with state and local governments, Moret and Ouachita Parish officials should grant V-Vehicle an extension, if you will. Moret and officials in Ouachita, though, should remain cognizant of the possibility that the V-Vehicle venture could fall by the wayside.
That possibility became crystal clear during that conference call Sunday when Varasano acknowledged in so many words that V-Vehicle is depending on that $320 million loan from Uncle Sam to make a go of it.