(Horn Lake, MS) James Madison remembers when the GreenTech electric car plant moved into a vacant factory near his home in Horn Lake a few years ago.
But he hasn’t seen much evidence of their work
“Ain’t seen many electric cars come out from over there,”
More than a year ago, a whistleblower told News Channel 3 he didn’t make any cars while working at the plant in Horn Lake.
Since then, others have come forward saying the same thing.
That, in part, has prompted a federal investigation into the car maker.
Part of that investigation centers on the companies use of the EB-5 visa program for its investors in China.
Those EB-5 visas allow foreigners who invest half a million dollars in certain businesses, and meet several other criteria, to come live in the United States.
“Ten days, I think about 14 different cities. We put on three to four conferences every day,” said former Horn Lake Mayor Nat Baker, who Greentech asked to help sell the company to Chinese investors in 2010.
But he says the company spent as much time selling the visas as it did selling cars.
“It was kind of a 50/50, they presented the cars and they also presented the EB-5.”
Baker says the Chinese were as interested in the visas, as Greentech was in promoting them.
“I get the…gut feeling that the Chinese people were trying to invest in the US in anything they could get their hands on. They were investing in. Was this visa thing an enticement? I think it was.”
Another source who didn’t want to be quoted directly said that Greentech’s efforts to promote the visa opportunity was well-known to at least two top Tunica County officials from the very earliest stages of the company’s arrival here.
Tunica was supposed to be the original home of Greentech, which temporarily moved operations to Horn Lake while it raised money for its new plant.
Recently, work got started on the Tunica plant, on which Greentech says it already spent more than $6 million.
“We need something for Tunica County but I haven’t seen it yet,” said Mississippi Representative Gene Alday of Walls.
The Mississippi Development Authority gave Greentech a $3 million loan to be paid back over ten years.
But those payments don’t have to start until six months after the first car rolls off the assembly line in Tunica.
“Am I concerned for the State’s investment? Very much so,” said Alday, whose district includes Tunica County.
Greentech says it took Tesla motors six years to get an electric car built, and Nissan 13.
Meantime, neighbors say they’re still waiting for promised new jobs.
“Nobody I know that applied, got a job,” said Madison.
Greentech said 80 people work at the plant in Horn Lake.
Baker said he does know people who work there and says they never missed a paycheck.
He remains a cautious supporter of Greentech, even though he has questions about its operation.
“I have a gut feeling, I can’t explain it, but there’s a gut feeling maybe like I said, they could put the icing on the cake and prove to me one hundred percent that they’re gonna do if they roll those cars off the production line. Right now they’re not doing that and I’m sitting here wondering why not”.
Greentech insists it is moving forward with new management and will build cars, eventually.