EV Factory planned for Green Island

By Justin Dawes – Reporter, Albany Business Review

Jan 13, 2022, 9:13am EST

An industry veteran wants to make electric vehicles in a new factory planned for Green Island.

John Gillie said he plans to build a 150,000-square-foot facility on 15 acres of the 50-acre site bordered by Tibbits Avenue and Cannon Street, formerly home to a Ford factory. And he plans to create 200 jobs.

His new company, Green Island EV, will make microtransit shuttles that can be used for public transportation. The goal is for the shuttles to eventually be autonomous.

This will give New York City and others the chance to buy from New York rather than importing from California or Europe or China, he said.

“There’s a theme here: Made in New York. Why is that important? New Yorkers are very proud of being New Yorkers,” Gillie said. “There’s no other [original equipment manufacturer] based in the state of New York that’s manufacturing EVs in New York for New York by New Yorkers.”

This type of transportation is growing in demand as cities across the country continue promoting pedestrian-focused design. Besides use by a municipality, the shuttles could be used by universities, or a company like Google could have a branded shuttle solely for its employees. Cars are the competition, he said.

“There’s a huge market for microtransit,” Gillie said. “The last thing [cities] want to do is build more parking lots. It’s redundant. It’s so inefficient: Build a parking lot that is ugly to put a car that nobody uses.”

Gillie stepped down from a corporate job about 18 months ago and created his own company shortly after. He had been recruited in 2015 as senior adviser for Lion Electric, a manufacturer of electric buses, and lead strategist for the U.S. market. Previously, he was chief commercial officer of FirstGroup, former owner of Greyhound and other brands.

“If you want to get an idea of where I’m taking Green Island, look to Lion Electric. And look how much they’ve progressed since 2015.”

Lion Electric (NYSE: LEV) (TSX: LEV) went public last May and is now valued at $1.82 billion.

“So I think I did a fairly decent job on strategy.”

The Green Island Industrial Development Agency had worked with Lion Electric about possibly building a factory on the Tibbits Avenue site, said Sean Ward, CEO of the IDA. That company ultimately chose Illinois to build a 900,000-square-foot facility. Green Island wouldn’t have had the space for such a large facility, anyway, Ward said.

That means the site is still open so Gillie, a Cohoes native, can build a project that gives back to where he came from.

“My purpose on this whole thing is to bring 200 great-paying jobs back to my hometown,” Gillie said.

Initial projections for the company show 100 units being delivered in 2024 with a first year’s revenue of $15 million. Revenue projections double each year after, reaching $150 million by 2027. It’s expected the company will reach profitability by 2026.

The plan is to pursue sales in New York state first, he said, and then move into the Northeast and then East Coast. Long term, he plans to replicate the factory model in other cities.

The plan is that Luizzi Cos. will build the $40 million factory and lease the space to Green Island EV. Roughly $30 million will go toward the factory, and roughly $10 million will go toward the rest of the campus, which will include at least one other building that will act as a campus center.

“When I say ‘factory,’ I want you to think Andy Warhol’s factory. I want something that Tesla would build. I want this to be the showcase of the Northeast,” Gillie said.

The goal is to start building around May or June.

The site is owned by the Green Island IDA.

“Electric vehicles are the wave of our future and something that is a priority at both the federal and state level,” said Ward, who added that he played baseball with Gillie as children. “It’s a great concept, and the timing is right. Why not site them right here in Green Island? Green industry and Green Island.”

Green Island owns its own utility, which means manufacturing costs could be much lower for the company. The village will need to complete a study to determine if it’ll have the capacity, Ward said.

The company has a temporary headquarters at the Troy Innovation Garage, Gillie said.

Gillie is in the process of seeking strategic investment, and he said some big companies have expressed interest.

“In today’s environment, there’s so much money being thrown at EV right now. We’re not going to have any problem raising,” Gillie said.

Meanwhile, he’s been working on compiling a team of industry experts.

That includes Robert Gurman as chief financial officer. Gurman has a long career that includes working as senior consultant for NYSERDA and New York Green Bank.

“That was one of my great talent grabs of all time,” Gillie said.

Tevin Grant, the associate general counsel for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, is the interim general counsel for the company.

Staff includes: Greg Frary as adviser, Juliet Mazza as chief marketing officer, Sandra Muleady as chief creative officer, Zach Miller as head of media production, and Allan Anastacio as head of customer success. All are employees of TruckTractorTrailer.com, Gillie’s e-commerce software business that will act as the dealer for Green Island EV. Lion Electric was previously a client of TTT.

Gurman and Grant are board members, along with Blake Krapf, CEO of Krapf Transportation. Gillie is the board chair.

Gillie plans to hire an experienced CEO, maybe from Tesla or some other big company, to run Green Island EV as he takes the board chair position. And to create a tech talent pipeline, he’d like to work with Capital Region colleges and universities, including Rensselaer Polytechnic Institutes and Hudson Valley Community College.

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