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West Richland car plant ready to get rolling

Company founder Jerod Shelby poses with his company’s Tuatara car at an unveiling event in Shanghai.
Company founder Jerod Shelby poses with his company’s Tuatara car at an unveiling event in Shanghai. Courtesy of Jerod Shelby

The long road to building a headquarters for the nation’s only supercar maker looks like it could be coming to an end.

West Richland is completing work on the parking lot, curbs and gutter, sidewalks and other infrastructure for the SSC North America’s main office near Belmont Boulevard and Keene Road.

The work is being paid for with a $829,000, zero-interest loan from the state Community Economic Revitalization Board.

The city has 20 years to pay back the loan. Officials plan to do that with revenue from the sale of land near the SSC facility. They hope the car plant will draw other companies to the business district.

$829,000 state loan to West Richland for infrastructure

“We’re taking care of our end of the deal,” Mayor Brent Gerry said.

Next it will be SSC’s turn to build the manufacturing plant and start making cars, which are fast enough to drive from the Tri-Cities to Montana in an hour.

Company founder Jerod Shelby said that after three “extremely challenging” years, next year is looking very exciting. He expects the facility will be finished in 2016 and to start making cars the next year.

“The vehicle development side of our business has been extremely successful,” he said in an email. “However, the project funding side, which had been secured and under contract in 2013, encountered one speed bump after another in actually receiving the project funding package.”

The company broke ground on its $6 million, 40,000-square-foot facility in 2013, but delays in getting funding pushed the expected construction start to August 2014. That was delayed as well.

Shelby said SSC received its first money from its investor in May 2013, but that investment group disappeared a short time later.

“This caught us completely off guard and left SSC in a very difficult position where we had to dig deep to hold all the pieces together while we quickly searched for a replacement for the funding source,” he said.

It took more than a year to more cautiously find the funding to get the project back on track, Shelby said.

“SSC has been navigating through that difficult phase but it now looks like 2016 will be the realization of the dream — to open the new SSC World Headquarters that we thought we were going to experience back in 2013,” he said.

SSC has been navigating through that difficult phase but it now looks like 2016 will be the realization of the dream — to open the new SSC World Headquarters that we thought we were going to experience back in 2013.

Jerod Shelby, company founder

The city has long sought the tax revenue from the business. West Richland has suffered from being mostly a bedroom community with few large businesses.

Shelby also said the manufacturing facility will be a tourist draw, like the local wineries.

Plans are to include a museum and public showroom. There, they can learn about the Ultimate Aero, which achieved a Guinness world record in 2007 for driving 257 mph — the fastest ever for a production car.

257 mph earned the Ultimate Aero world record for fastest production car

“I truly believe that SSC will be a cornerstone for West Richland and will bring high-end tourists and clients into the area who will be surprised at all that the Tri-Cities has to offer,” he said.

In 2011, the 16-year-old car company unveiled its next-generation vehicle, the Tuatara, in Shanghai. The car is framed entirely of carbon fiber, with a projected top speed of 276 mph. At the time, Shelby said it would retail for just over $1 million.

The Tuatara is scheduled to be released and delivered to customers starting in early 2017, Shelby said. The last Ultimate Aero was delivered in 2014.

Shelby thanked West Richland and the economic development board. He also praised state Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, who helped create the Invest in Washington jobs program, which passed in the 2015 legislative session.

SSC is among the first companies in Washington to benefit from the pilot program, which allows companies to invest part of their tax liability back into creating jobs and training workers.

The program helped SSC create 25 full-time jobs in the Tri-Cities, along with 35 to 50 more jobs at suppliers around the state.

Invest in Washington jobs program helped SSC create 25 full-time jobs in the Tri-Cities, along with 35 to 50 more jobs at suppliers in the state.

In a letter to Brown, Marcus Mosley, a senior manager at SSC, said the program allows the company to defer sales tax on the manufacturing facility and equipment for five years, at a time when funds are tight in the “capital-intense manufacturing environment.”

Brown said it is intended to inspire the entrepreneurial spirit.

“It provides an incentive for businesses to invest in machinery and job-force training for manufacturing projects by allowing them to defer taxes and use that money up front when they need it most,” she said in a statement.

“I’m happy to see that it is already resulting in new family wage jobs — right here in the Tri-Cities,” she added.

Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543, @GeoffFolsom

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