When Emerald Automotive made a big jobs announcement in 2011, it made a splash in a town that is still recovering from the closure of the Ford plant in Hazelwood. Two years ago, Emerald Automotive said it would start production in 2014, hiring up to 600 employees.
In 2011, Hazelwood used sales tax revenue that was set aside for economic development to give Emerald Automotive a three million dollar loan. The non-profit Missouri Technology Corporation gave a two million dollar loan to the startup.
But in late 2013, the Hazelwood office of Emerald Automotive still has just two employees.
The Director of Sales and Corporate Communications for Emerald Automotive tells News 4 that he’s getting questions about the company’s future, but insists plans are moving forward – just at a slower pace.
“Is this thing even going to survive, does it exist, is it around, is it going to happen? And the answer is absolutely, positively, without a question: yes,” said Gary Marble.
Emerald Automotive expected to get another, larger public loan from the Department of Energy. But, that fell through when the federal agency came under fire for gambling on Solyndra – a failed startup in California. Emerald Automotive says it has since been working to recruit private investors, which is taking longer than expected when the company first came to Hazelwood in 2011.
“Companies make promises like this all the time where if you give us money we’re going to give you hundreds of jobs. In Emerald Automotive’s case they said 600 jobs. Where are those jobs today? I think taxpayers are reasonably frustrated by the promises that often times don’t come through,” said Patrick Ishmael of the Show-Me Institute.
The loan from Hazelwood doesn’t mature until 2018. Tim Davidson of the City of Hazelwood said he’s confident taxpayers will be paid back – pointing out that the same management team is in place and has maintained an office in Hazelwood.
Emerald Automotive Hazelwood employees work out of the Knobbe House in Brookes Park, leasing the space from the city. Davidson says Emerald Automotive pays about $2,000 in rent per month.
“I think we’ve done some research before we initially made the investment. These are people of integrity that will do what they say they will do,” said Davidson.
Emerald Automotive has still not selected a site to establish a manufacturing plant, said Marble. He said the company is close to making new announcements, but declined to release any details on Tuesday. The company has said, previously, that it will try to raise $160 million to build fuel efficient, fleet vehicles that could travel more than 100 miles on a gallon of gas.
The city says it now expects production to begin in late 2015 or in 2016.