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The Porterville Recorder – GreenPower Moves Into Town

The Porterville Recorder – GreenPower Moves Into Town

GreenPower moves into town
By RICK ELKINS
Land purchase complete

GreenPower Motor Company Inc. has finalized its purchase of 9.3 acres of land at the Porterville Municipal Airport and is moving quickly towards beginning construction on its electric bus manufacturing facility here.

Fraser Atkinson, chairman of GreenPower, also announced the company has hired Rudy Medina as their director of human resources and they have set up a small office across Hope Drive from where the plant will be constructed.

“It took a little longer to get that to close,” said Atkinson of the land purchase. GreenPower and the city announced the sale in May. “We’ve got everything good to go on our end,” he added, but said they were not certain as when construction will begin.

“We’re starting to get pretty excited,” he said of the project which will be only the third electric bus manufacturing facility in the state. “We’re looking forward to the ground breaking.

The company presently has a final assembly facility in Chino where they just completed a 100-passenger, double-decker bus, but Porterville will be their first major component and assembly plant in the United States.

Company officials have said approximately 75 people will be hired at the start, but they expect that number to grow as they ramp up. Already, the company has several orders for the buses and the city of Porterville has been tentatively approved to purchase nine electric buses to make its transit system a state test of an all-electric transit system.

City Manager John Lollis said the city was hoping to get roughly $11 million from the state, but said that amount could be reduced because recent Cap and Trade auctions did not generated as much revenue as anticipated, so the “funding of the other seven buses is in question.”

The company announced it paid $660,000 for the property on which it intends to build a 150,000 square foot plant. Lollis said the company has not yet submitted plans, but he was told they would like to start construction by November. GreenPower paid $66,000 to the City and the balance is payable over a period of ten years, a term of five years and bearing interest at the rate of 2 percent per year, said the press release.

Atkinson said the plant will be U-shaped and constructed in four modules, one being the office and the other three for assembly. He said there will be multiple assembly lines, giving them 1,500 linear feet of space and “16 assembly points.” Buses of any size, including the double-decker, could and will be assembled here.

“We’re looking at getting the grading going and service aspects,” said Atkinson, and getting the office set up.

GreenPower intends to build the facility in compliance with “Buy America”, a program of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which allows U.S. based transit agencies that are relying on federal funding to benefit from certain tax breaks and incentives. One of the Company’s target markets is transit agencies and compliance with Buy America criteria will further enhance the appeal of GreenPower buses to those specific transit agencies that benefit from the program, the company said in a press release.

However, pointed out Atkinson, for a majority of the buses they build, the Buy America program is not applicable.

Medina brings over 20 years of HR experience at both small and large organizations and was most recently employed as Plant Human Resources Manager for Karma Automotive, manufacturer of the Fisker Karma electric luxury sports sedan. Prior to his 20 years of industry experience, Medina served in the U.S. Army.

“Completing the acquisition of this property was the next milestone toward consolidating our operations in Porterville, which is strategically situated in the San Joaquin Valley. This location will give us much needed manufacturing capabilities and put us in an ideal position to pursue additional market opportunities in California,” stated Atkinson in the release. “We are also pleased to add an industry veteran like Rudy Medina as the director of HR to assist us with the next phase of our growth. He will play a key role as we expand our operations over the coming months.”

Atkinson said while the company already has orders, he said they have come in bunches and he hopes to see a more steady stream of orders.

He also acknowledge the old Springville Inn has been acquired, although not by GreenPower, and that will be utilized to house both employees and visitors to the plant.

“We’re going to need a bunch of available beds. We’re looking at that facility to house people, people who are part of our supply chain,” said Atkinson. He added the old Inn should be ready for use by the end of this month.

Atkinson said while there are no announcements as to suppliers coming to town, it is their intention to have at least a couple of “key aspects,” of the components located here. One would be the battery cells which he said the company recently purchased from a third party. Another is the manufacturing of the charging stations which he said are “already getting more compact and easier to use.”

He pointed out that while the escrow was proceeding, the company was busy working on its plant plans and setting up buyers, as well as promoting its stock, which in the last week has gone up about 50 percent.

GreenPower offers a range of electric powered buses deploying electric drive and battery technologies with a lightweight chassis and low floor or high floor body. GreenPower’s bus is based on a flexible clean sheet design and utilizes a custom battery management system and a proprietary Flex Power system for the drive motors. For further information, go to www.greenpowerbus.com.