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Small Biz Matters

Welcome to Small Biz Matters, where IBJ discusses issues of interest to small-business owners and entrepreneurs. I'm your host, Associate Editor Andrea Davis.

Small Business

Whatever became of the cool cop car?

March 11, 2011
KEYWORDS Small Business

One of the most interesting startup companies in the state, Carbon Motors, is moving ahead while it waits—and waits—for news on a $310 million federal loan it applied for a couple of years ago.

More than one Hoosier cocked their heads like a dog when the Atlanta company announced in May 2009 it would move to the decaying auto-parts town of Connersville in eastern Indiana and eventually manufacture a newfangled police car out of carbon fiber and outfitting it with sensors for weapons of mass destruction and other futuristic technology. The cars were to roll out of a sprawling former Visteon plant following a $350 million refurbishment.

Carbon Motors execs hoped for an answer about the loan last summer. But marketing chief Stacy Dean Stephens e-mails, “We've said from the beginning that we will not attempt to predict government behavior/timing, and we will stick to that. What we can tell you is that the loan is still VERY active and we continue to work closely with the federal authorities on a daily basis to see that it is approved as quickly as possible [where we are concerned].”

Stephens goes on to say nearly 200 people, a couple dozen them in Connersville, are employed and that the company has received 16,100 reservations from 500 agencies across the country.

“We have, for the most part, stopped giving interviews for the time being because the delay only seems to inflame those unfamiliar with federal government's processes,” he adds.

You have to wonder if Maalox budgets are rising at Carbon Motors and even across Connersville. When Carbon Motors started eight years ago, the Detroit automakers were stumbling, and when the headquarters relocation was announced, they were on death beds.

Now they’re making comebacks, and it’s hard to believe they will give up entrenched markets without a fight. So the sooner Carbon Motors can ramp up an assembly line, the better.

For now, though, all the company can do is innovate and prepare. And wait.

What are your thoughts? What are Carbon Motors’ prospects?

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