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With more than $700 million in additional funding and with its shares now trading in the stock market, it’s time for Arizona’s newest public corporation to bring home the bacon.

Or better yet, drive it home.

“Now it’s about executing our business model,” said Trevor Milton, the founder and executive chairman of Nikola Corp., a maker of zero-emissions heavy trucks powered by electric batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.

Now that the shares are publicly trading following a reverse merger with VectoIQ Acquisition Corp., Nikola’s attention turns to other priorities. Milton cited breaking ground on a new truck-manufacturing factory in Coolidge, beginning production of trucks in Germany with European partner Iveco and building the first hydrogen-fueling stations around the country to support those big rigs.

“It has been kind of crazy, man,” said Milton at Nikola’s headquarters south of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Thursday, minutes after he rang the bell, remotely, to close trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

Detroit to Arizona migration

Based on a Thursday closing price of $33.75 a share, Nikola now has a stock-market worth or capitalization of $12 billion, placing the 5-year-old company among the half-dozen or so most valuable public corporations headquartered in Arizona. The stock trades under the symbol NKLA.

Nikola already employs about 350 people, all at the company’s headquarters and research/development center at 4141 E. Broadway Road in Phoenix. The Coolidge plant eventually will employ about 2,000 people within the next few years. Hiring hasn’t started.

Roughly half of the company’s current staff are auto-industry transplants from the Detroit area.

“Everyone wants to live in Arizona,” said Milton, Arizona’s newest billionaire, who will split his time between a home here and a $32.5 million ranch near Park City, Utah.

Full slate ahead

Actually, the 38-year-old entrepreneur is on the road more often than not, visiting with potential customers, vendors, investors, government officials and others.

“My (typical) week is packed — I’m usually working 12- to 14-hour days,” said Milton, who estimates he travels to three or four states on average each week, with occasional trips to Germany or elsewhere.

Milton predicted Nikola will start to generate significant revenue next year and hopes the company could become profitable by around 2023. That might be a stretch, given a highly competitive landscape and the huge operational challenges that await.

But considering how far down the road Nikola already has traveled in five years, it’s not out of the question.

Reach the reporter at russ.wiles@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8616.

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