Tesla expects to grow Reno’s economy
I assume that most readers of this newspaper are aware by now that Tesla Motors is building a $5 billion “gigafactory” west of Fallon in Storey County that will produce batteries for its electric cars and SUVs.
Hoping to describe the new facility in this column, I drove to the Tesla plant recently to check it out. The factory is located off I-80 at exit 32, which is called the USA Parkway.
Exit 32 is one exit past the Patrick off-ramp and about 17 miles west of the Fallon and Fernley U.S. 50 cutoff. Coming from Reno, exit 32 is approximately 19 miles east of the Virginia Street turnoff onto I-80.
When I turned off the USA Parkway and began searching for the Tesla facility, which is still under construction, I found myself in the middle of the sprawling Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, the regional home of several companies such as Toys-R-Us, FedEx, Walmart and Amazon, whose gigantic warehouses, distribution centers and office parks dot the hills and bluffs of this picturesque desert area known as Eagle Valley.
Unable to find Tesla, which is named for Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), the fabled engineer who invented the alternating current (A/C) electrical supply system, I stopped and asked a construction worker to point the way.
“It’s up that road,” he said, gesturing to a wide, winding boulevard that bears the name“Electric Street,” which certainly is appropriate for an outfit that manufactures batteries.
I soon found Electric Street and drove a mile or so uphill until I arrived at a guard house smack in the center of the road. The sign “Tesla” was attached to the structure, and as I approached, a uniformed security guard rushed out and informed me that the street was closed to uninvited guests and that I must turn my car around and leave at once.
Not wishing to get on the fellow’s wrong side, I followed his instructions, making a u-turn, driving back down Electric Street to the freeway and then back to Fallon.
Before my hasty departure, I looked past the guard shack with the hope of catching a glimpse of the two-story, 5.8 million square-foot Tesla plant that is expected to be completed in a month or so.
Alas, I could see nothing. Zilch. The plant was hidden by a large hill in the distance. My venture was completely unsuccessful. I wasted at least two hours of my time and several gallons of gasoline. I’ve been tossed out of countless places during my newspaper career, which is par for the course in this business. Next time, I’ll call ahead.
My only solace is that I was able to take a photo of the guard house, the Tesla sign and the security man which accompanies this column today.
But putting aside my hapless experience with Tesla, I’ve been learning that there’s almost unanimous agreement among Northern Nevada business leaders and economists that the Tesla facility is expected to bring great financial riches to the region. Tesla’s economic impact, in fact, is even being compared by some experts as equal to the wealth brought to Nevada by the gold and silver discoveries of the mid-1850s and the advent of legalized gambling in the early 1930s.
Tesla, which is headed by California entrepreneur Elon Musk, whose electric-powered cars are built in Fremont on San Francisco’s East Bay, will bring bring unheralded fame, fortune and stability to the region,. echo national and international media outlets such as the New York Times, Bloomberg News and Reuters, the British news agency.
At least 6,500 permanent jobs and an estimated 16,000 indirect jobs are ultimately expected when the plant is completed and the battery production begins, and thousands of new homes, apartments and condos will be required to house this expected labor force in the greater Reno area.
Reno, which is still pulling itself out of the last recession and “is littered with aging casinos and seedy bars,” will become a high-tech manufacturing and distribution hub built on an immense scale that will restore the region’s prior “fabled wealth,” predicts Reuters.
The New York Times agrees, stating that Reno’s current image as a city of “worn-out casinos, strip clubs and pay-by-the-week motels” will “turn the corner” with the arrival of Tesla as well as other manufacturing and high-tech companies, many of which have already arrived in Northern Nevada.
Reno, adds Bloomberg News, “has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to diversify its economy” and “transcend its image as a downmarket Las Vegas and second-tier destination for gamblers and visitors to Lake Tahoe.”
Great strides also have been made in Fernley, said Bloomberg, noting the construction there of a 1.2 million square-foot Amazon distribution warehouse. Bloomberg also wrote of the building in Reno of a massive facility for Switch, the Las Vegas-based developer of data centers, and UNR’s new downtown innovation center for e-commerce and technological research.
Will better economic times also come to Fallon and Churchill County with the advent of the Tesla “gigafactory.” I hope to report on this in a future “My Turn” column.
David C. Henley is Publisher Emeritus of the LVN.