Executive says lithium is a lure for Tesla Motors

Nevada Manufacturers Association Executive Director Ray Bacon talks during Wednesday's Nevada Business Connections meeting.

Nevada Manufacturers Association Executive Director Ray Bacon talks during Wednesday's Nevada Business Connections meeting.

Drones are up in the air, figuratively as well as literally, and Nevada has the lithium that could help lure Tesla Motors to the state.

Those two observations were gleaned from comments made Wednesday by Nevada Manufacturers Association Executive Director Ray Bacon at a breakfast meeting of Nevada Business Connections, a private-sector economic development organization. During a question/answer period at the gathering at the Gold Dust West, Bacon was asked by an audience member, “Anything happening on the drone situation?”

“Yes,” he replied about testing here of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, “and nobody knows what it is.”

He said the Federal Aeronautics Administration sooner or later will have to come up with rules, particularly protocols for avoiding collisions, that will help make drones work. Nevada is a testing site because there is room to test for resolution of such collision issues, as well as other issues. Bacon said the rules are a missing element.

“That’s the piece that’s not decided yet,” he said.

As for Tesla, which has included Nevada and three other states in competition to get a large battery plant the electric car will build, Bacon held out hope.

He said the last he’d heard, the Silver State is the only state among the four that has lithium mines. Lithium is a key element of the lithium-ion batteries Tesla needs. The competing states are Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

“I think New Mexico wants to be in play,” said Bacon, noting New Mexico’s Legislature may consider holding a special session to enhance chances of luring Tesla’s so-called Gigafactory. It is projected to employ 6,500, a number about which Bacon was skeptical, and produce batteries for a half-million cars by 2020. Bacon said after NBC met that Texas has a business climate that could make it a solid contender, while Arizona may be asleep at this point.

Also speaking at the breakfast was David Midboe, president of Carson City’s Concept Automation Systems, which makes machines to handle sophisticated packaging and labeling problems. Among companies for which his labeling devices have done work are Tyson Foods, wine makers such as Sterling and Kendall-Jackson, cigarette makers and pharmaceuticals suppliers.

“Our products are used throughout industry,” he said. “If you get your (prescription) drugs in the mail, we were a part of it.”

Midboe said his company on Research Way uses machines and 10 people to make the labeling equipment, but will add machines and one or two more workers soon because “we’re in rapid-growth mode right now.” He later elaborated growth could add 30 more employees in the next three years or so, based on projections.


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