COOLIDGE — Nikola Motor Company took major steps this week toward building its manufacturing plant in Coolidge.

The company began vertical construction of the facility, planting steel beams on Tuesday morning. It also announced a “meet and greet” on Jan. 16 as it begins the first phase of hiring for roles including manufacturing technicians, mechanics and production supervisors.

According to Nikola talent acquisitions leader Paul Maack, the company has already started hiring for advanced positions in engineering and manufacturing, but now it intends to begin hiring some of the more entry-level production associates.

“We realize there are plenty of folks who don’t have truck assembly manufacturing experience,” said Nikola human resources chief Joseph Pike. “But if people have a desire to learn, that’s what we are looking for.”

Pike said the company plans to have extensive training, and Nikola has reached out to Central Arizona College as well as community organizations such as Chicanos Por La Causa and Arizona@Work to help coordinate special programs down the road.

Maack was adamant that this was only the first in a planned series of hiring events over the winter in order to accommodate pandemic restrictions. Maack admitted they would have preferred a more traditional job fair. Interested job seekers will instead be signing up for specific time slots.

“We intend to be very good citizens of Coolidge for the long haul,” said Maack. “If COVID wasn’t a factor, we’d be doing things differently, have a big celebration, big festivities, but we’ll get to the same point, talking with people about careers and what it means to build trucks in Coolidge.”

Both Maack and Pike said they were very impressed with the community support and enthusiasm, calling city representatives “top tier folks from the mayor on down.”

“It makes us excited being there to see that level of community involvement and excitement,” Pike said.

In the initial hiring phase, Nikola expects to hire 50 to 100 individuals, although over the long haul the manufacturing plant is expected to need over a thousand employees. People can register for the meet and greet, which will involve one-on-one discussions with Nikola representatives, at nikolamotor.com/careers.

Pike said Nikola is still hoping to have the first trucks come off the assembly line at some point during summer of 2021.

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Aaron Dorman is a reporter covering Coolidge and the surrounding area. He can be reached at adorman@pinalcentral.com.