A new assembly plant in Libby is on track to start producing golf cars in December, according to Kootenai River Development Council deputy director Brigid Burke. LiV Golf Cars plans to employee 22 people within two years at the former Stimson Lumber Co. mill site.
This fall, the Lincoln County Port Authority is refurbishing part of the Central Maintenance Building at the business park in Libby that the company will use to make lithium battery-powered golf cars.
“This is really important for us because it will help diversify the local industry, instead of just relying on our natural resources,” Burke said.
The LiV cars are unique because they run on lithium ion batteries that are much lighter than a regular golf cart battery, according one of the company’s founders, Yaak resident Jon Hoster. A regular battery weighs nearly 350 pounds, whereas the lithium one weighs only 30 pounds and will result in less wear and tear on golf courses.
“There is a much longer life and much less maintenance needed for these cars,” Hoster told the Beacon in May.
Hoster said this spring that the company planned on leasing the cars to golf courses across the southwestern United States, although some could also be sold. He said plans call for the Libby plant to assemble 1,280 cars the first year from parts produced elsewhere.
“We’re excited to have Jon’s business, not just because it will bring 22 people into the workforce in two years, but also because they’re good-paying jobs,” Burke said, adding that LiV Golf Cars has agreed to pay its workers at least $15.53 an hour with benefits.
The upgrades to the business park’s Central Maintenance Building include installing larger doors, new lights and the construction of an assembly line. The improvements are being paid for with grants and loans from the Montana Department of Commerce’s Community Development funds and Montana West Economic Development. The Big Sky Trust Fund also provided $150,000 for building lease reductions.
There are currently a half-dozen businesses operating inside the Libby business park. The new golf car company comes after Stinger Welding, Co. closed shop earlier this year. In 2009, the company arrived in Libby promising to bring more than 200 jobs to one of the state’s most economically depressed area, but the work never came.
Last December, the company’s owner, Carl Douglas, died in a plane crash and soon after a lawsuit between the company and Lincoln County spilled into the public view. The lawsuit states that Stinger did not hold up its end of a 2009 economic development agreement and that it does not own the massive facility it and the county built to construct bridge beams.
Stinger denies the allegations and, according to Burke, the ownership of the building is still tied up in the court system. The welding company closed its Libby shop this spring, but Burke said there are still three large bridge beams stored at the site waiting to be delivered.
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