Velfera Auto Design President Surveys Sites

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Velfera Auto Design’s $130 million project that would bring hundreds of jobs to the region remains on track, its president, Antonio Pierce, said Tuesday.

The project calls for the construction of four plants to house manufacturing and testing operations for battery powered vehicles.

So far Velfera has secured letters of intent for three sites in East Liverpool, Vienna Township, and Greenville, Pa.

Pierce was in town Tuesday to identify the final site for the project, meet with local vendors who would act as suppliers and talk to reporters.

“We’ve done really well so far in terms of identifying the sites. We’re working with the communities to finalize parcels for the project,” Pierce said.

Velfera, based in Dallas and Baltimore, is also considering sites in Trumbull and Columbiana counties and Mercer County Pa.

Whether the project proceeds is contingent on financing, and Pierce says his company is working to secure $55 million in private financing for the $130 million project, which is also dependent on public financing and incentives.

“We’re hoping to have the last parcel under contract by the end of the year or going into the first quarter of next year,” Pierce said. If successful, he expects to complete financing by the second quarter “and begin the process of breaking ground.”

The four-plant project would employ more than 500 construction workers in addition to some 100 permanent/part-time employees.

The intent is to build commercial vehicles at a rate of 1,000 to 2,000 units per year, Pierce said. The lightweight electric vehicles would serve commercial and municipal markets, operating at costs as low as two cents per mile. Consumer products could come later.

“It’s a great niche,” said Vic Rubenstein of Rubenstein Associates, a marketing and public relations firm in Liberty Township. “There’s no one really in that full-throttle in the commercial market.”

Before he spoke to Rubenstein, Pierce said, the region “wasn’t even on the radar” as a possible site, but it wasn’t long before he was persuaded it is the right one.

“You have a workforce that is familiar with automotive assembly, you have close proximity to most of our supplier base, and you have direct access to most of the major markets along the eastern seaboard,” he said.

Pictured: Antonio Pierce, president of Velfera Auto Design Inc., Dallas.

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