Carbon Motors Will Not Get Federal Loan, Company Says

Company Planned To Hire More Than 1,500 People

Carbon Motors, which had planned to hire more than 1,500 people in Fayette County, will not get a loan from the Department of Energy to proceed, the company said Wednesday.

The company had applied for a $310 million loan under the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, a federal program designed to encourage high-tech vehicle manufacturing.

Carbon Motors had planned since 2009 to build high-tech police cars in Fayette County, which had the state's highest unemployment rate at 12.3 percent in December.

"We've had the rug pulled out from under us for political reasons, and they've just taken 1,500 jobs from eastern Indiana," Connersville Mayor Leonard Urban said. "The president is afraid of not being re-elected, and the Tea Party's pushing for don't spend any money. Everybody's afraid to do much of anything."

Gov. Mitch Daniels echoed that sentiment in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re deeply disappointed for the people of Connersville and those who tried to bring this promising business here. It would have been far better if the federal government had never gone into the banking business," he said. "Companies like Carbon that might have proceeded and succeeded with a conventional business plan were seduced into wasting irreplaceable years chasing federal subsidies that never happened."

William Santana Li, the company's chairman and CEO, blasted the administration of President Barack Obama, calling the federal program a "glaring failure … to create jobs that are clearly within its power to create."

"We are outraged by the actions of the DOE, and it is clear that this was a political decision in a highly-charged, election year environment," Li said. "Carbon Motors simply appears to be the last victim of this political gamesmanship."

Li said he believes scrutiny of the program led to the loan's denial.

The company said it had gotten more than 20,000 reservations for the police car, the E7, and that it would try to find financing to move forward.

"Our country was built by relentless entrepreneurs that despite the odds, despite the severity of the challenge, despite the roadblocks and despite the naysayers, rose to the occasion, led where there was no leader, and through innovation, turned the impossible into the possible, no matter how long it took," Li said.

A Department of Energy spokesman said the agency is committed to balancing its goal of supporting innovative projects and its responsibility to taxpayers.

"Over the last two and a half years, the department has worked with Carbon Motors to try to negotiate a deal that supported their business while protecting the taxpayers," spokesman Damien LaVera said. "While we were not able to come to an agreement on terms that would protect the taxpayers, we continue to believe that Carbon Motors is an innovative company with an interesting project and we wish them luck.”

There was plenty of exuberance in 2009, when Carbon Motors announced that it would make the high-tech police car in Connersville.

At the time, Fayette County had the state's sixth-highest unemployment rate at 16 percent.

Carbon Motors had committed to investing $350 million to refurbish a 1.8 million-square-foot facility that had been vacated by Visteon in 2007.

"We've got a long road ahead of us. There's going to be a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make this all happen," Li said in 2009.

Connersville had mounted an exhaustive campaign to woo the automaker, which included a rally that 7,000 people attended in May 2009.

Hopes were high to revive a county's economy that had been decimated by the decline of the automotive industry.

Former Ford Motor Co. executives founded Carbon Motors in 2003.

"We will continue the fight," Li said.

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