By Kansas City Business Journal Smith Electric has received a total of $32 million in Department of Energy grants, which the men said the company matched with $36 million of its own money to help produce 500 all-electric delivery trucks that will be bought by such firms as Coca-Cola, Staples, Frito-Lay and Kansas City Power & Light Co. The grants came from $2.4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds set aside to encourage development of electric vehicles. â¿¿The Smith Electric story provides a great microcosm of the Recovery Actâ¿¿s agenda,â¿ Bernstein said. â¿¿Itâ¿¿s precisely by planting these seeds that the federal government incentivizes private capital to come in off the sidelines and get to work building new sectors of our economy and, in the process, build good jobs here in America.â¿ The vehicles, which cost $150,000 each, can carry as much as 16,000 pounds and have a range of 100 miles on a single charge. Rogers said the company is operating three assembly lines in the former American Airlines maintenance base at KCI (Airport code: MCI) and is on track to employ about 70 people. â¿¿We expect there is a large market for these electric trucks and we expect demand to grow as the market proves out the economics for these vehicles,â¿ he said, adding that the efforts will make the United States competitive in what is expected to be a high-growth global industry.
Smith Electric officials said earlier this year that they were switching from a single plant to a series of regional manufacturing plants in a bid to boost sales. The company hasnâ¿¿t yet announced where those additional plants will go.Obamaâ¿¿s visit comes amid continuing uncertainty about whether the economy truly has recovered. The two men acknowledged that while 3.7 million jobs were lost in the first half of 2009, only 593,000 private sector jobs have been created so far this year. â¿¿Thatâ¿¿s solid improvement in the right direction, but itâ¿¿s not good enough,â¿ Bernstein said. Rogers said that private investment also is waiting for Congress to pass some form of energy and climate policy, which has been caught up in partisan disagreements about whether to set a price for greenhouse gas emissions, among other issues. He said some restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions could help sales of electric vehicles such as Smith Electricâ¿¿s. â¿¿As long as we make the rules clear, private capital is ready to flow into the market,â¿ he said. â¿¿But uncertainty ... hinders investment on the energy side of the equation.â¿ Besides Smith Electric, the two said federal stimulus dollars also have helped Kansas City establish its Green Impact Zone, a 150-block area east of Troost Avenue that will feature weatherized homes, energy-efficient rapid bus service and job training for green industries. The area also will have so-called â¿¿smart gridâ¿ technology, which is designed to help consumers control their energy use. Later Thursday, Obama is scheduled to attend a campaign fund-raiser for U.S. Senate candidate Robin Carnahan, the leading Democratic hopeful to replace the retiring Republican Sen. Kit Bond. Roy Blunt is the front-runner on the GOP side. Copyright 2010 American City Business Journals http://kansascity.bizjournals.com/kansascity/stories/2010/07/05/daily17.html?ana=thestreet