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Posted on: June 7, 2021

Port Secures Grant for New Electric Bus Company in Ferndale

The Regional Economic Partnership (REP) at the Port is thrilled to announce the Washington State Department of Commerce has awarded the Port a $300,000 economic development strategic reserve fund (SRF) grant to support Vicinity Motor Corp. (VMC) (formerly Grande West Transportation Group Inc.) plans to in build their new electric bus assembly line in Whatcom County. REP has now successfully supported and secured three SRF grants totaling $650,000 to assist the recruitment, retention or expansion of businesses locally during its biennium (2019-2021), which ends on June 30, 2021. 

“We are excited to have Vicinity Motor Corp join the growing number of Clean Tech companies in Whatcom County,” said Port Commissioner Michael Shepard. “Research collaboration opportunities at Western Washington University, workforce development opportunities at Bellingham Technical College and Whatcom Community College, and proactive environmental policies from the state of Washington will help Vicinity Motor Corp support the transition to more sustainable transit vehicles in public and private markets.” 

Vicinity Motor Corp specializes in manufacturing mid-sized multi-purpose transit vehicles. They design, engineer, and sell buses to public entities as well as commercial businesses. One of their trademark products, the Vicinity, reports to cost significantly less, be more maneuverable, burn less fuel, and emits fewer emissions than a regular 40-foot transit bus. Given their business model, which limits overhead costs, they can also deliver new products to the market quickly and with no minimum production level commitments. 

“Vicinity Motor Corporation is an exciting addition to Washington state’s rapidly growing clean technology and advanced manufacturing clusters,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “Attracting and supporting innovative companies and international investment are key to achieving our state’s aggressive goals for a clean energy economy that strengthens communities with good jobs while protecting the environment for future generations.” 

“Whatcom County is the ideal gateway for Canadian companies who want to establish a US manufacturing base and expand into the US market,” said Port Commission President Ken Bell. “Whatcom County is less than an hour away from British Columbia’s major population and economic centers and offers an efficient transportation network with a low-cost airport. The Port’s sophisticated economic development team is ready and waiting to support businesses like Vicinity Motor Corp with site identification, cross border logistics, grant funding and tax incentives.

“Electric-powered transit will be a critical driver of modernization in the transportation sector and I’m very pleased to see VMC choose Whatcom County as the place to grow its business and create new jobs,” said Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu. 

“We are excited to have been chosen by the state for this grant, a testament to our innovative suite of products and strong job creation potential in the region,” said John LaGourgue, Vice President, Corporate Development at Vicinity Motor Corp. “I look forward to working closely with the State of Washington going forward to create value for the state, its transit riders, and our shareholders.” 

“As the world moves towards electrification of all sorts of vehicles and products in order to meet sustainability and climate goals, VMC is producing a highly sought after and much needed product,” said Don Goldberg, Director of the REP at the Port. 

The Ferndale community is also excited to welcome new manufacturers. “As an innovative and sustainable manufacturer of electrified, mid-size buses, Vicinity Motor Corp. will bring family wage jobs to Ferndale and further bolster the Made in Ferndale vision for Whatcom County manufacturing,” stated Anya Milton, Executive Director of the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce. 

The economic development grant for VMC contributes to over $22 million dollars in investments in land acquisition, capital construction, and the creation of 20 living wage clean technology jobs at the Ferndale location, with plans for expansion. 

“Vicinity Motor Corp is a terrific win for the citizens of Whatcom County and the state of Washington,” said Port Commissioner Bobby Briscoe. “New family-wage job opportunities are why the Port created the Regional Economic Partnership and this project shows what is possible with a first-class economic development team and grant incentives from the state.” 

Ferndale has seen multiple expansions and new businesses enter their manufacturing cluster during the COVID-19 pandemic, including another Canadian company and recent SRF awardee, 360 Modular Building Systems. “Manufacturing continues to be the powerhouse of Ferndale’s job growth and we are thrilled to welcome Vicinity Motor Corp to our community,” said Ferndale Mayor Greg Hansen.

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