PORT CHARLOTTE — Cue the music - "Meet George Jetson."
Charlotte County's Economic Development Office wants to entice a flying car company to set up shop here. Economic Development Director Dave Gammon will ask county commissioners today to consider an $100,500 tax incentive package for the Oregon-based company called Samson Motors Inc. This would be a match for an incentive from the state, for which the company has applied.
Samson's key product, the Switchblade, has not yet become airborne, except in a wind tunnel, collaborator and local pilot Alex Rodriguez told the Sun Friday.
"We are days from flying," he said.
In the meantime, Samson wants to set up a production facility somewhere in the county. It has approached four other locations in Oregon, Wisconsin, Nevada and Texas. Charlotte County is the only location in Florida. That's because Rodriguez has just moved here from Miami, and he thinks it's a great location.
"The weather is a big factor," Rodriguez said. "We want to be producing cars all year long."
Samson's founder and innovator Sam Bousfield will be in town Tuesday for the commission meeting, Rodriguez said.
Samson debuted his prototype car-plane called the Switchblade about 10 years ago, according to Automobile Magazine. It is three-wheeled with two in the back. Its most unique feature, according to Rodriguez, is the clamshell folding wings and retractable tail, which protect these flying components from damage on the road. Compare that to another car-plane that is farther along, for example, the Transition by Terrafugia, which has wings that fold but are still exposed along the side of the car. That plane flew in 2012, but does not appear to be in full production yet.
Another unusual feature for the product is that buyers can build it themselves to reduce the price to about $120,000. They can build it with the company's help or let the company build the whole thing. Many of its features are tied to helping the buyer and the company meet new regulations set by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA set up new regulations some years ago that make it easier for the flying car industry to get going, according to a 2012 article in the Eagle-Tribune newspaper.
Here in Charlotte County, manufacturing set up and hiring would begin in January, according to the company's proposal. The average salary would be $55,000, which is 50% higher than the county's average salary, according to the Economic Development Office. The company anticipates hiring 67 people over the next seven years. It estimates it would spend $1 million for land to build the first facility of 30,000 square feet followed by a larger facility with more staff by 2022.
Another competing flying car concept is the helicopter car or a vertical take off vehicle. Uber Elevate is working on this concept, Rodriguez said. In the Automobile Magazine 2018 article, Samson called out limitations for pilots with this concept. He noted that there are few authorized locations to take off and land a helicopter whereas many communities have airports.