JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – An area company is dangling a big, German-engineered carrot in front of employees in hopes of vastly increasing its percentage of those vaccinated against COVID-19.

LPI Inc. CEO David Hatley said if the Johnson City-based hot tub maker can reach 90% vaccinated by Dec. 17 — only about 55% of its nearly 700 workers are currently vaccinated — one of the vaccinated workers will win a 2017 Mercedes C300 worth about $32,000.

Regardless of whether the company reaches that goal, four vaccinated workers will win gift cards worth a total of $5,500.

About 55% of LPI’s nearly 700 employees are vaccinated.

Hatley said each ebb and flow of COVID case rates affects LPI.

“Every time that happens it’s affecting our production capacity here, when we have to quarantine people and exposing people here,” he said.

“So with it being on the rise lately we’re just trying to do anything creative to get vaccinated.”

That includes rewarding the roughly 55% of LPI employees who are vaccinated, “that are showing up to work every day and have a much better success rate of even getting through COVID if they do receive COVID.”

LPI has had a few employees get seriously ill, but most cases that have hit the company have been mild, Hatley said.

“Who’s to say the next one to get it can be a fatality,” he added. “We don’t know, so we’re just taking it very serious.”

Hatley said he hopes the type of incentive LPI is offering won’t stop with his company.

“Tennessee’s below the average already and this area is probably even a little below that, so any push we can get at all to get people vaccinated is worth what we spend on it.”

Getting to 90% may be a stretch. Many of LPI’s vaccinated employees got their shots months ago. Uptake has been much slower among the remaining workers.

“Most people have their decision made up on that, so how successful will we be in encouraging people to do that, that’s a question, but we’re going to push as hard as we can and encourage people and reward those people, and we’ll see where it goes.”

Regardless of the Mercedes question, the company will be drawing names from among all its vaccinated employees for four sizable gift cards – one for $2,500, one for $1,500, one for $1,000 and one for $500.

“I’d love to hand the keys off to someone else, and I’d also love to see our other large employers in the area do similar events to where we can all push for a higher vax rate. That benefits us all from a liability standpoint, from a health standpoint, from an economic standpoint. All those things we’re doing to get vax rates up I think are crucial in fighting this virus off.”