Two chance meetings in Utah, one with a solar energy executive and the other with an Arkansas senator’s daughter, led to the state getting on electric vehicle maker Envirotech Vehicles Inc.’s radar.
Envirotech, of Corona, California, announced plans last week to put its first U.S. manufacturing plant in Osceola and move its headquarters there, a five-year, $80 million project that will employ 800.
The deal was eight months in the making, and it began when Envirotech CEO Phillip Oldridge was introduced to Nick Gorden, CEO of Shine Solar in Rogers, at a June 30 basketball game in Utah. Shine Solar has a branch in Salt Lake City, has bought two vehicles from Envirotech and handles marketing for Envirotech.
Gorden said that when he learned Envirotech was looking to put a factory in California or Utah, he started pitching Arkansas. He stressed its central location, its labor force and the enthusiasm for the project he expected from state and local officials.
“I don’t remember who told me, but I found out along the way that Arkansas was the only state in the nation that had zero automobile manufacturing of any kind, not just EV, anything,” he added, which increased that enthusiasm.
Around the same time Oldridge met Gorden, Envirotech Executive Vice President Susan Emery’s husband, Chad Emery, ran into state Sen. Mark Johnson’s daughter, Allison Johnson at a hotel in Utah. She was there for a meeting and they were looking at a site. Allison sent the company’s executives to Johnson, R-Little Rock.
Oldridge told Whispers he believes this was “ordained by the good Lord himself.” His team visited Gorden, at Gorden’s invitation, in August and met folks in northwest Arkansas and Little Rock. “The good old homegrown, old-fashioned hospitality of Arkansas just snowballed and it just picked us all up in it. And, before we knew it, we fell in love. So here we are,” Oldridge said.