This week, The Post editorial board posed some questions about my time as chairman of GreenTech Automotive. Let me offer some answers.
Trying to launch an electric-car company during a tough economic time was an exciting challenge that involved taking a risk on new technology, and I’m hopeful that the company will succeed.
Two weeks ago, I first learned from The Post about documents that Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R- Iowa) obtained showing that the Securities and Exchange Commission recently started an inquiry into GreenTech, where I previously served as chairman. My opponent in the Virgina governor’s race, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, has since devoted much of his energy to misleading attacks based on that story.
Here are the facts: I’ve not been contacted in any way by those conducting the investigation and have no knowledge of it beyond what has been reported. From what has been reported, the investigation appears to be looking at a document allegedly prepared for potential investors — something I was not responsible for as chairman.
Republicans have also criticized the company for employing only about 100 people. Of course, that’s about 100 jobs that would not have existed if we had not taken a risk on this company. The company has taken longer to develop than many people expected, including me, but taking a risk on an innovative company is a critical part of the American system, and most business leaders I speak with agree that it’s not uncommon for a company to face challenges meeting its goals.
GreenTech was started because those involved invested their own money in high-tech manufacturing. In this case, it was manufacturing a small electric vehicle that had already won an annual award. Like every start-up during the Great Recession, the company faced headwinds. Those included a bureaucratic slowdown in a bipartisan visa program known as EB-5, which brings capital from overseas to create jobs here in the United States for many companies. I joined a variety of business and political leaders from both parties who expressed frustration to officials at the agency overseeing the program.
A further headwind is that manufacturing isn’t easy, and manufacturing a new kind of car is even harder. The company has invested in research and development, testing and safety to perfect the design. While Nissan worked to develop electric vehicles for about 18 years before launching the Leaf, GreenTech made progress in just a few years during a more challenging economic time. If GreenTech succeeds, it will be a step forward for innovative manufacturing.
I have an interest — both personally and financially — in the company succeeding, and I believe that it will. As a minority shareholder, my return will be determined by the success of a long process of testing, manufacturing, marketing and selling vehicles all over the world.
The company’s corporate headquarters is in Virginia, and its manufacturing facility is in Mississippi. My opponent has implied that it was wrong to create any jobs in Mississippi, an attack made even less credible by The Post and the Republican lieutenant governor of Virginia, who have said that companies must make location decisions based on what’s best for the company’s chances of success.
In a free-market economy, some businesses succeed and some fail. Businesses are risky, and start-up businesses are even riskier. But risk-taking and investing in our No. 1 asset — our workforce — are what drive our economy in a global marketplace. Virginia needs a governor who understands that.
Terry McAuliffe is the Democratic nominee for governor of Virginia.