Electric Carmaker to Set Up Shop in Elkhart, Indiana

Think’s acquisition of new facilities in Elkhart, Indiana seemed to happen overnight, but city leaders and residents are hoping that the business is there to stay. Governor Mitch Daniels said, “This is a huge positive, a huge moment for our state. This may well be the defining new technology in transportation.”

The announcement that Think would be occupying the facility on Magnum Drive in Elkhart came earlier this week. Think will manufacture its small electric cars there and offer them for sale in the U.S. in 2011. Think vehicles have been popular in Europe for some time.

Think is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Think Global, a Norwegian car maker. According to documents filed in Elkhart, Think plans to hire over 400 employees for its new facility, with approximately 100 of those hired within a year. In total, the company intends to spend $55 million on equipment and machinery for production and $1.2 million on property improvements.

Mayor Moore said, “We’re going green and diversifying at the same time,” and added that this approach is, “Exactly what we’ve been looking for.”

The facility in Elkhart, a 205,000 square-foot building on 12.7 acres on the east side of town, was a Philips Products factory that employed 250 making doors and windows for RVs up until the middle of last year.

Until negotiations with a property owner failed a few days ago, Think was planning to set up shop in nearby Middlebury, Indiana. Elkhart County had already approved tax abatements for Think before the change occurred. The county still approves of the situation since the business and jobs will still be there. However, now that Think has decided to make a home in Elkhart, the city will offer the incentives.

Elkhart County council president John Letherman said, “It really doesn’t make any difference whether this facility goes in the city or the county, as long as it’s in Elkhart County somewhere.”

State and local leaders are thinking positively about the electric vehicle movement. The area’s RV industry has taken a huge hit in recent years, and unemployment has soared; they feel it’s time to move on to something new.

Governor Mitch Daniels said, “I think the possibility of growth in demand for a vehicle like that could mean we’re back here in a couple or few years with a similar or larger announcement.” He feels the Think announcement of its home in Elkhart is “historic”. Daniels went on to say that Indiana may soon become known as the “state of electric vehicles” with Elkhart County as the new state’s capital.

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