MARBLE FALLS — Reports that Highland Lakes-based Ronn Motor Co. owed more than $98,000 in unpaid payroll taxes were — in the words of the company’s founder — an "error."
"We’ve already taken care of it. It was an error," Ronn Motors CEO Ronn Maxwell told The Daily Tribune Tuesday. "That’s all that I’ll have to say about it."
The Internal Revenue Service filing came several months ago, Maxwell said, even as the company prepares to double the amount of money it will spend to remodel a former candle factory in town that will serve as its future headquarters.
IN PHOTO: The Scorpion HX supercar has made appearances at auto shows around the world. Owner Ronn Motor Co. plans to operate a manufacturing plant in Marbel Falls. File photo
Within three years, Marble Falls will take over the site and use it for a vocational-technical training center for adults and younger students. The motor company is expected to stay in Marble Falls, but move to another location.
The company, which makes eco-friendly sports cars powered by a mix of gasoline and hydrogen, was notified of the federal tax lien by the IRS in December 2009, according to records.
Officials with the IRS did not return calls for comment Tuesday. Documents indicating the tax lien had been released were not available, according to officials with the Burnet County Clerk’s office.
According to IRS documents, the company owed a total of $98,025.37 after failing to pay payroll taxes for four consecutive quarters in 2008-2009.
Maxwell said the IRS mistake has already been smoothed over, adding work at a Marble Falls site that’s expected to serve as the company’s temporary home was proceeding on schedule.
Ronn Motors this spring will move into the 76,000-square-foot former candle factory, which now is owned by the Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. The building will be the automaker’s world headquarters for about three years before a planned move to a new $3 million facility elsewhere in Marble Falls.
The EDC purchased the building for $1.7 million in 2009 to use as a career classroom, agreeing to lease the facility to Ronn Motors for three years before the school is opened. A $700,000 project by the EDC to bring the building up to code continues.
EDC Special Projects Coordinator Olivia Cribbs said Ronn Motors’ finances — good or bad — wouldn’t affect the building’s future as a regional vo-tech classroom.
"Our plan always was to have the building be a vocational-technology center," Cribbs said Tuesday. "Having Ronn Motors come in was the icing on the cake."
Whether Ronn Motors is successful doesn’t have a bearing on the city’s agreement with the company, she added.
"Our ultimate goal is to get the technical school going," Cribbs said. "Whatever happens to (Ronn Motors) won’t affect that."
As part of the company’s lease agreement with the EDC, Ronn Motors had agreed to create an unspecified number of local jobs, and Maxwell said in December he planned to bring 100 jobs to Marble Falls by the end of 2010.
The company in December announced it had secured $6 million in investor funding, and Cribbs said the EDC was preparing to re-negotiate Ronn Motors’ contract to account for an increase in the company’s spending.
"The original contract stated (Ronn Motors) would spend $250,000 to refurbish the offices," she said. "He indicated they’re going to spend $500,000, so the new contract will reflect that."
Maxwell’s company began trading shares in May 2008, and originally set its sights on opening a production facility near Cottonwood Shores.
Since then, its flagship Scorpion HX supercar has made appearances at auto shows around the world.
The Scorpion uses an onboard system to extract hydrogen from water molecules, injecting the gas into the fuel stream to enhance fuel efficiency while reducing carbon emissions, company officials said.
The same technology can be adapted to other cars.