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USA: Foreign investments under scrutiny as car company’s big plans haven’t materialized

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The company instead now uses a former elevator factory 30 miles away in Horn Lake. A McAuliffe spokesman said about 100 small electric vehicles were built by the time McAuliffe resigned from the company in December. The thousands of promised jobs have yet to materialize.

“It takes time to build a brand new company in a capital-intensive industry like electric vehicles, and we will not cut corners on quality or safety as we progress. We have a plan. The plan is working. We’re sticking to it,” GreenTech said in a statement.

The company said it has more than 100 workers and “once production is ramped up” should employ at least 350 — the same number of jobs required under the state loan agreement.

Jeff Rent, a spokesman for the Mississippi Development Authority, said the company has assured the agency they’re on track to meet hiring goals.

Industry analysts say the company faces hurdles to succeed.

“A brand-new electric car company without an established U.S. partner, or global partner, is a lofty goal,” said Joe McCabe, president of AutomotiveCompass, which forecasts global vehicle and power train production. “They’re one of several other electric manufacturing startups entering a tough market. They have to come with something better to the game, not just an also-ran.”

Other analysts say GreenTech exposes problems with a program used to attract foreign investors — known as the EB-5 visa program.

David North, a fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that examines immigration policies, said the foreign investors in the EB-5 program are primarily motivated by a desire to get green cards for them and their families, not to find lucrative propositions.

“So this EB-5 program by its very nature is often linked to second- and third-class investments,” he said.

Under the EB-5 visa program, foreigners can invest $500,000 or $1 million in American business ventures depending on the location of the project. In GreenTech’s case, the program called for $500,000 investments.

The EB-5 program is capped at 10,000 investors a year, and had 6,106 applicants in 2012.

Under the rules of the program, each EB-5 investment must create at least 10 jobs. In exchange, the foreign investors get to stay in the United States for up to two years and can then apply for full citizenship, a speedier process than afforded to most other immigrants who must wait five years after establishing residency before being eligible for citizenship.
PHOTO: In this July 29, 2013 photograph, a worker walks across the site of what is believed will become the manufacturing facility for GreenTech Automotive in Tunica, Miss. Surrounded by farm lands, the facility is being designed for a production capacity of 30,000 vehicles per year. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
In this July 29, 2013 photograph, a worker walks across the site of what is believed will become the manufacturing
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