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Nikola breaks ground on Coolidge plant

The Eloy Enterprise

COOLIDGE - Nikola Motor Company-branded shovels dug down into the ground and dirt flew into the air, marking the beginning of a very big step for development in Coolidge.

The publicly traded hydrogen electric vehicle manufacturer Nikola Corporation broke ground on the land that will one day be the home of a 1-million-square-foot manufacturing plant at Houser and Vail roads in southern Coolidge.

The day when the manufacturing facility will be ready to roll out its fuel cell-powered semi-trucks could come as soon as 12 months from now, Executive Chairman and founder of Nikola Trevor Milton said.

"We're breaking ground right now - 12 to 14 months we believe we will have our buildings up," he said during the ceremonial groundbreaking held Thursday morning. "(That is when) we can actually start to produce limited runs of production off of our assembly lines."

Phase II construction on the site is anticipated to come to a close 12 to 18 months later.

The company first announced plans for the groundbreaking in June, which city officials noted would only be ceremonial as Nikola had not applied for permits to build at the time.

According to Nikola executives and city officials, however, that is no longer the case.

"Construction starts today," said Mark Duchesne, head of global manufacturing. "Permits have been applied for and the site plan has been submitted."

The site plan was submitted by building design and construction consultation firm Walbridge, which will assist Nikola in master planning, design, preconstruction and permitting.

City Manager Rick Miller, among those in attendance at the event, said that the major site plan will likely go before the city's Planning and Zoning Commission by Sept. 9.

In its initial phases, Nikola's manufacturing facility will be tasked with production of the Nikola Tre and Nikola Two models. At full production, the plant is anticipated to produce 35,000 semi-trucks annually.

Despite the threat of an oncoming monsoon storm, the groundbreaking brought together business executives and community leaders from throughout Pinal County.

"You can't understate these things," state Rep. T.J. Shope said. "In the city of Coolidge's history, for example, this has got to be one of the single biggest things that has ever happened. And then you extrapolate that to Pinal County, my own Legislative District 8, and it's just one of the single biggest things that's ever happened in the county along with Lucid (Motors)."

For Coolidge, Thursday's groundbreaking was years in the making. Nikola first announced plans to land the plant within the community, on 430 acres owned by Saint Holdings LLC, in 2018.

The site of the manufacturing facility is located at Inland Port Arizona, a massive proposed industrial park located between Houser and Hanna roads at the southern tip of Coolidge.

"For us at the industrial park, it just gives credit to the community and the county and the state for another project that we've successfully worked together on coming to fruition and going vertical," said Jackob Andersen, president and CEO of Saint Holdings.

Among the key speakers at Thursday's event were Milton, Nikola CEO Mark Russell, Mayor Jon Thompson, Andersen and Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis.

"It's finally good to see that we're going to be able to get things going," Thompson later said at the conclusion of the event. "Build the plant, get the jobs out there, put people to work, see those trucks rolling out of here and see our economy improve."

At full buildout, the Nikola plant is expected to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs within Pinal County.

The decision to build the facility in Coolidge as opposed to a larger city was intentional, Milton told attendees Thursday.

"The effect that we are going to have on the community is incredible and it's a blessing for me," he said. "When you go to a very large city you get lost - you get gobbled up. When you come to Coolidge, you get to see the town and the people and the families that you truly affect."

The Coolidge plant will play a critical role in Nikola's overall mission to contribute to a zero-emissions future.

"This is going to be a big step for that because one of the hardest things to eliminate fossil fuels from are the big things that move," Russell said. "The bigger something is, the harder it is to move with zero-emissions. Nikola and our partners have the technology to do that."


Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Aug 1, 2020 8:53 am GMT

This event could easily sail under the radar.  Where else has it been reported other than the local newspaper?  I expect it to make bigger waves than that, eventually. It certainly reminds one of another somewhat similar company.

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