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Electric vehicle maker Canoo betting big on Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas

The Canoo lifestyle vehicle
Canoo expects to launch its first consumer model in 2022.

It turns out a factory in Pryor was just the start of electric vehicle maker Canoo’s investment in Oklahoma.

The company recently announced it will bring research and development and software development centers to Tulsa, needing about 375 workers. Canoo also plans to open a customer service and financing center in Oklahoma City and several new facilities in northwest Arkansas, including corporate headquarters in Bentonville.

In a call with investors last week, Canoo Chairman and CEO Tony Aquila said the moves will have Canoo making its own cars sooner than a contract manufacturer in Europe can produce them.

"We are now able to accelerate our advanced manufacturing industrialization facility in the U.S. ahead of VDL Nedcar, addressing growing demand for the LV delivery and the LV, which will avoid a 25% tariff on cargo vans imported into the U.S., putting us ahead of schedule," Aquila said.

The LV is Canoo's lifestyle vehicle model.

Canoo has also announced a partnership with the George Kaiser Family Foundation to build local skills needed for the new jobs and bring diverse talent to northeast Oklahoma.

"We are excited to have the Canoo software engineering and tech hubs in Tulsa. The presence of these high quality jobs from Canoo can benefit from and complement the various public-private programs that are based in Tulsa, supported by GKFF and which specialize in critical areas such as automotive and software engineering, cyber security, advanced mobility, among various others," GKFF Executive Director Ken Levit said in a statement.

Aquila praised Govs. Kevin Stitt and Asa Hutchinson for being pro-business and said the expansion in the two states includes an estimated $100 million in additional incentives, likely in the form of state orders for electric vehicles.

"They want to create high-tech jobs, they want to create this as a new industry in the corridor. And so, they've been extremely helpful. And, you know, obviously, we're always conservative, but we'll be focused on having those in the definitive agreements," Aquila said.

Oklahoma has reportedly offered Canoo a $300 million incentives package for its factory at the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, including land and site development.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.