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Hazelwood, Mo., could be site of hybrid van plant

Hazelwood, Mo., could be site of hybrid van plant

July 29th, 2011 in News

HAZELWOOD, Mo. (AP) - The St. Louis area has lost thousands of auto manufacturing jobs in recent years, but may soon get some back.

Hazelwood officials announced Wednesday that the city council approved a measure to provide $3 million through economic development sales tax to help a British company build a plant to make hybrid electric vans.

The Missouri Technology Corp. will also provide $2 million to Emerald Automotive.

Mayor Matthew Robinson said the city and Emerald have been talking since February. The plant could create 1,000 jobs and could be operating by 2014.

Emerald CEO Andy Tempest said the company will make lightweight delivery vans for European commercial fleets. The vans will eventually be offered for sale in the U.S. and possibly Asia.

Robinson said the plant has the potential to be one of the largest in the St. Louis County town. The plant would directly employ up to 580 people by 2015, and result in jobs for another 400 suppliers.

"We will actually begin doing a modest amount of hiring in 2012," Emerald general counsel Sharon Heaton told KMOX Radio. "We will be hiring a larger number of people in 2013 and expect to be at about 300 people by the end of 2013."

Heaton said the company has been working on the van known as the T100 for about two years. It will use a battery recharged by either a diesel or gasoline engine and will have a range of about 475 miles.

The van would be targeted at companies such as delivery and utility firms that buy vehicles in bulk and do a lot of driving.

Heaton said Emerald looked at 25 possible U.S. locations. Hazelwood was picked because of the incentives and the quality of the workforce.

There are thousands of former autoworkers available in the region. Ford and Chrysler plants have been shut down in recent years - Ford in Hazelwood, Chrysler with two plants in Fenton. Jobs have also been cut at the General Motors plant in Wentzville.

The site of the former Ford plant is among those being considered for the new facility.

England's postal service is the company's first client, and is committing to purchase thousands of the vans, Heaton said.