Emerald T100 Hybrid Van

Emerald Automotive LLC announced their intent last week to build hybrid vans at a plant in Hazelwood, Missouri near St. Louis. As part of plans for a "$175 million factory," the company would receive a $3 million loan from the city and a $2 million loan from a state agency. On the scale of things, that's a pretty small investment to bring a potential 580 jobs to an area which has lost much of its manufacturing base.

However, the question that immediately came from both industry and press was: who are these guys? Emerald Automotive was a name that rang few bells, and there was some concern that this was all a sham. With the number of alternative vehicle factories announced but never started, and the number started that never reached production, any plan that involves a city pitching dollars to an unknown start-up is subject to suspicion that those involved may be more interested in mining municipal funds than in producing vehicles.

The company behind Emerald Automotive appears to be Intelligent Energy LEV, which was formed in 2010 as one of a number of ventures by Andy Tempest. With a background that includes a stint as managing director of motorsports company Prodrive and helming parts company Wagon Automotive, Tempest certainly has connections in the auto industry. He also has a connection that didn't end quite so well. In 1995, he was fired from his role as chief operating officer at Lotus in a squabble over the future of the company.

Another of the principals involved in Emerald is Jim Hadden. Hadden crossed paths with Tempest at Wagon Automotive and went on to head the Detroit office of service and design firm Arup. Both men have a background that includes multiple connections to the automotive industry; they also bring to the table a history of raising capital and participation in several successful ventures. Does that mean that the City of Hazelwood's dollars are safe? Only to the extent that the people behind Emerald Automotive seem to be car guys with some business chops. Starting up a transportation firm has proven to be very challenging, even for those with substantial backing.

[Source: KSDK, Biz Journals]