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Ground broken for Zap plant

FRANKLIN — Steve Thurmond, executive director of the Franklin-Simpson Chamber of Commerce, wanted to keep the noise low, but the crowd wasn't cooperating. The audience clapped and cheered as he introduced 13 officials, all of whom he said played a role in landing a Zap electric vehicle plant in Franklin.

About 300 people gathered Thursday at a groundbreaking ceremony in Franklin to welcome the plant into the community.

Officials announced Monday that the plant will be built in Franklin after the state approved $48 million in tax incentives, and Franklin offered about $80 million in industrial revenue bonds to the company.

"What we're doing here, in this county, is not just for us," Zap CEO Steve Schneider said, "but for the rest of the world ... We'll have one more thing to add to the Kentucky scoreboard, and we're very proud of that."

Officials unveiled the Alias, a new, three-wheeled, $32,500 vehicle that will be produced at the Franklin plant. Mayor Jim Brown said he wanted his 3-year-old nephew to grow up with the opportunities offered by the proposed 1 million-square-foot plant that officials say will eventually employ up to 4,000 workers.

Maroon-and-white road signs near the podium read "Zap Boulevard" and "Waldman Lane," after Randall Waldman, CEO of Integrity Manufacturing, the company that has partnered with Zap. The signs will mark the roads leading to the plant, Simpson County Judge-Executive Jim Henderson said.

And Zap officials are giving a $1,000 rebate to any Franklin resident who orders a Zap vehicle in the next 90 days. "We want everybody in this area to be driving a Zap vehicle," Waldman said.

Officials unveiled a rendering of the plant, which will feature a 2-mile test track. Dealers and investors from across the globe will travel to Franklin to watch the products take a spin around the track, Waldman said.

The plant will sit on 225 acres in the North Wilkey Industrial Center, and it will be the area's biggest employer. The plant is expected to attract about seven satellite facilities, which will produce parts for the vehicles and an additional 3,000 to 5,000 jobs, Waldman said. Workers will start digging to make room for construction in the next seven to 10 days, he said.

Officials later shoveled the first pile of dirt and planted a tree at the site. Zap officials said they will plant 200 trees for each vehicle sold from the Franklin plant.