Wash. Co-op Backs Fast Car PlantBy Derrill Holly | ECT Staff Writer Published: June 13th, 2013
A consumer-member of a Washington state electric cooperative thinks high-performance luxury cars should roll out of Yakima Valley wine country, and his electric co-op is helping to fast track his dreams.
“Over the last five years we have built these vehicles in five different facilities,” said Jerod Shelby, founder and CEO of SSC North America. “We have had to do one portion in one and move it to the next. This will be a completely different process on how the car is built.”
Benton Rural Electric Association is partnering on site development for a new manufacturing facility and showroom for Shelby’s company, maker of the world’s fastest production cars. A groundbreaking ceremony was held May 28, and construction is now under way.
“This facility will centralize the development, manufacturing and assembly of the SSC North America product line,” said Troy Berglund, community development and member relations manager for the Prosser-based co-op. “The cars will have always been assembled in West Richland, but this will put the whole manufacturing process under one roof.”
The co-op joined public and economic development groups to help the company and Shelby, a long-time Benton REA member, obtain financing from the Washington Department of Commerce.
SSC North America captured the production car world speed record in 2007 when its Ultimate Aero tested out at more than 257 mph. The $850,000 gasoline-powered two-seater can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in less than 3 seconds and brake from that speed to a full stop in 103 feet.
“They have a new version of the car which will be manufactured in the new facility and they have plans for a whole line of other vehicles in the future,” said Berglund. “Our contribution has been providing the electric infrastructure needed at the site, which will be served by our lines.”
The new plant will be built on city-owned land recently acquired from the federal government. Company officials are hopeful that they’ll be able to move assembly there by late 2013, eventually creating as many as 50 permanent jobs and building about 24 cars a year, based upon orders.
The plant and an adjacent showroom will occupy 36,000 square feet and are expected to become a new attraction for tourists visiting the Yakima Valley wine country. Phase out of the 1,287 horsepower Ultimate Aeros has already begun, but production of its replacement, the more powerful 1,700 horsepower Tuatara will take place at the new plant.
“These are hand built vehicles; it takes about six weeks on the Tuatara to build,” said Alan Leverett, chief administrative officer of SSC North America. “This is a luxury car that we expect to generate lots of domestic and international interest.”