July 30, 2014
The number of rumors and unconfirmed reports Tesla Motors will build its huge battery manufacturing plant in Northern Nevada is growing every day.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in May the company planned to "move forward, breaking ground with multiple sites."
And there's no denying more than two dozen bulldozers are preparing a huge site at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center 15 miles west of Reno.
TRIC Owner Lance Gillman won't say if the site is for Tesla or another company but, in the past, he generally hasn't begun preparing any major site without a customer for it.
Another source says Tesla has signed a lease agreement but, again, Gillman isn't talking at this point.
Neither are representatives from the Northern Nevada Development Authority, the Governor's Office of Economic Development or Gov. Brian Sandoval, all of whom are treating the Tesla case much like they did with the negotiations that brought Apple to Northern Nevada. That wasn't announced until it was a done deal.
Sandoval said he can't talk about the Tesla negotiations and what stage they are at in the process.
Tesla announced some time ago it was looking at potential sites in four different states: Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
But California hasn't given up on getting the plant. Lawmakers have already passed legislation to give Tesla $400 million worth of property tax breaks over 15 years. Musk described California's efforts as impressive in Friday's USA Today.
John Boyd of New Jersey, who makes a living helping corporations pick sites for their operations, told the Northern Nevada Business Weekly in April he sees the Nevada site as the most likely winner of the competition. Among its positives: rail service and proximity to Tesla's manufacturing plant in Fremont, Calif. — critical to reducing shipping costs — the state's lack of a corporate income tax, a friendly regulatory climate and tax incentives to companies that move here.
On top of that, Northern Nevada is home to the only lithium mine currently in production in the United States — in Silver Peak near Tonopah.
The State Transportation Board is also pushing ahead with plans for the USA Parkway, a freeway that would connect U.S. 50 east of Carson City with Interstate 80 at Fernley, opening up access for not only trucks but workers in the Carson-Douglas area to get to the industrial center much more easily.
NNDA, Sandoval and Steve Hill, head of GOED, are pulling out all the stops to convince Tesla western Nevada is the best choice.
The reason: the $5 billion plant will create 6,500 jobs making batteries to power the high-end electric car. That would make Tesla the largest employer in Northern Nevada.
One potential monkey wrench in the effort is the question on the November ballot that would impose a 2 percent margins tax on business income in Nevada. The question has been put up by the state teachers associated but is now opposed not only by businesses throughout Nevada but the AFL-CIO which has also described it as flawed.
Tesla has said it needs 10 million square feet of factory space and plans to begin production, probably in partnership with Panasonic, which now makes the company's batteries, by 2017.
The company's stated goal is to build 500,000 cars a year by the year 2020, a goal that would require millions of lithium-ion batteries. The huge factory is needed to reduce the price of those batteries and lower the cost of Tesla's planned Model 3, a car aimed at a mass market rather than the high-end market its existing models cater to.