ST. JOSEPH COUNTY – A Central Indiana company announced its plan Friday to build plug-in hybrid work trucks at AM General. A vice president with the startup company, BRIGHT Automotive, says the plan is to bring 300 jobs to St. Joseph County by early 2013. But it’s not a done deal.
What’s happening at a laboratory in Anderson, Indiana could translate into hundreds of jobs at AM General.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to take an existing, beautiful facility with a well-trained work force and build our product there,” said Dave Lauzun, BRIGHT Automotive executive vice president of eSolutions, power train and advanced development.
BRIGHT wants our local work force to build the hybrid work truck that plugs in and uses electricity for the first 40 miles, then changes over to a gasoline engine after that.
“What’s so unique about our product is unlike a lot of other electric or hybrid electric vehicles out there, our vehicles saves the customer money every day they drive it,” Lauzun said.
BRIGHT spokesman Jason Vines also said there’s a demand for it, citing a 900,000 vehicle market for service companies, repairmen, delivery drivers and others.
But BRIGHT has to overcome a big hurdle before production can begin. The company applied for a loan for hundreds of millions of dollars from the Department of Energy months ago, and that application has neither been approved nor denied.
“We remain confident,” Lauzun said. “We wouldn’t have made the announcement we have if we weren’t confident things would continue to move along very rapidly. So we continue to have great confidence in our business plan and certainly expect the Department of Energy will recognize that and ultimately push this through.”
The company said it expects to hear a decision from the DOE very soon.
We’ve seen this confidence before.
In 2009, Electric Motors Corporation announced it would bring at least 1,600 jobs to Elkhart County to build a hybrid pick-up truck. Now the building along State Road 19 in Wakarusa where all that hype happened sits empty.
But BRIGHT insists it is different.
“We’re very confident in our product,” Lauzun said. “[We have] great customers and a great set of suppliers lined up to go on this.”
Neither AM General nor leaders with the county's Project Future program are saying much about the partnership. Patrick McMahon, Project Future executive director, told WSBT talks between AM General and BRIGHT Automotive have been ongoing for at least the past year.
A public tax abatement hearing for the two companies is scheduled for Thursday November 3 at 5 p.m. on the fourth floor of the County-City Building.