A golf car assembly plant could open on the site of the former Stimson Lumber Co. mill in Libby. On May 1 the Lincoln County commissioners signed off on a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant loan application for LiV Golf Cars.
Kootenai River Development Council executive director Paul Rumelhart says the plant could open as early as September and employ 15 people the first year, 27 the second year and upwards of 45 the third year. The plant would set up inside a warehouse that the port authority will be refurbishing this summer.
“This is an exciting deal for us and it’s a little different from what we’ve done in the past,” he said. “We really feel good about this and the employment goals are reachable.”
Yaak resident Jon Hoster is heading up the golf car assembly plant endeavor. Although the golf car parts would be built elsewhere, they would be assembled in Libby. What makes the LiV cars unique is that they run on smaller and more efficient lithium ion batteries. A regular golf car battery weighs nearly 350 pounds, but these batteries are around 30 pounds. Hoster said the new cars would result in less wear and tear on golf courses.
“There is a much longer life and much less maintenance needed for these cars,” he said. “It’s still very, very preliminary, but we’d love to start making golf cars here in Northwest Montana.”
Hoster said once assembled, the cars would be leased to golf courses in the southwestern United States, although some could also be sold. He said plans call for Libby to produce 1,280 vehicles the first year and another 3,000 the following year.
“We have zero percent of the market right now, so the potential for us to grow can only go up,” he said.
Rumelhart said the development council would spend $150,000 to fix up the warehouse. He said additional lighting, air conditioning and heating must be installed before work can began.
Rumelhart said LiV would be one of a dozen businesses in the Libby industrial park. He added that there is plenty of room for the business to grow.
“I think there is a big future for this technology,” he said. “It’s an interesting field.”