How did a start-up company like Elio Motors end up in the
ArkLaTex? That's what everyone wants to know?
Elio Motors is owned by Paul Elio. He's an engineer by trade, who is funding the project through his small engineering firm. The company plans on rolling out Elios or three-wheeled fuel efficient vehicles. They are front wheel drive, and weigh 800 lbs. The Elios use a three cylinder overhead cam fuel injected gas motor and have an eight gallon tank. The vehicle has one door and two seats. The trunk is able to hold a small suitcase or larger items such as golf clubs if the backseat is let down. The vehicle is the first of its kind, and is expected to sell around the world.
The elios have not been put through federal safety tests yet, but Paul Elio expects them to get a five star rating. Currently, Elio is testing prototypes of the vehicle via computer simulations.
"It will do better than a rear drive car say a mustang or
360 or any rear drive car," said Paul Elio. "It will be on par with a Toyota Yaris
or Nissan Versa-front engine cars. It's not going to do as well as a four wheel
Elio Motors announced it's leasing 100 million sq. feet from the old GM plant in Caddo Parish Thursday. GM turned off its lights there on Nov. 30, 2012. The man who owns that portion of the plant is Stu Lichter, the second largest commercial real estate property owner in America-according to Paul Elio.
Paul Elio said the company has private investors, who are spending more than $100 million to see the project to its fruition. Elio plans to hire 1,500 people and will begin accepting applications in 2014. Manufacture of the vehicle is expected to begin the summer of 2014.
"It's an ideal situation. The facility is gorgeous, the equipment is what I need," said Paul Elio. "The town has a workforce. There is great support from the Parish and state. Literally everything is ideal."
This is not the first plant Paul Elio put his eyes on. In 2010, he looked at an old GM plant in Pontiac, MI, but the deal did not come through. Elio would not disclose many details but said it did not work out because there was a lack of community support, which he said has not been an issue in Shreveport. Also, back then, Stu Lichter was not on his Board of Directors, like he is now.
Caddo Commissioner Ken Epperson Sr. said the plant in Michigan also did not have equipment, unlike the GM plant in Shreveport. Epperson said it's worth taking the risk inviting Elio Motors to Shreveport because they need someone to fill the plant, before it is demolished and turned into scrap metal. He said he was elected to take risks, if it's going to improve the area's economy.
"You can't sit here and think that something is going to come to you," said Commissioner Ken Epperson, Sr. "Sometimes you got to go out and put something down. You got to gamble. And that's what the public wants us to do. Go out and aggressively seek things out that are going to come to Caddo Parish and enhance us economy. "
Epperson said he's received calls from as far as New Orleans with people asking how they can get an application. The phone kept ringing through our entire interview.
"They're calling because people are desperate for employment," said Epperson. "The word is out and people are looking for good jobs."
The Caddo Commission has located investors who are investing $10 million in industrial bonds for Elio Motors. Epperson said that was key to making the deal.
"Those bonds really sealed the deal," said Epperson. "We were about $10 million from closing the deal and once we got those bonds for sale, that dotted the eye and crossed the T."
According to the Caddo Commission, the state of Louisiana is offering Elio Motors up to $150 million in tax credits if it meets specific job creation requirements.