City, state making case for Tesla to open factory here

Created: 02/27/2014 6:00 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

New Mexico negotiators continue to make the strongest case they can for an electric car company to build a giant-sized battery factory here – a factory that could eventually employ more than 6,000 workers.

Economic development leaders from state government and the city of Albuquerque won’t say exactly what incentives they’re offering Tesla Motors to locate here, because talking too much too soon could sour the deal for our state and sweeten it for the three other finalists – Nevada, Arizona and Texas.

Tesla calls it a “gigafactory” – a huge plant to manufacture the lithium ion batteries that power the cars. The plant itself would be powered by solar and wind energy. That’s why the four finalists are in the Southwest. Tesla will need up to 1,000 acres for the $5 billion project.

Gov. Susana Martinez gives credit to the massive tax reforms that passed in last year’s legislative session.

“It shows that all the things that we’ve done in the legislature have made us competitive, and since we’ve done that we are one of the state’s being looked at by many companies,” Martinez said. “We’re proud that Tesla is looking at us and so hopefully now it’s up to them to choose their site and hopefully they’ll choose us.”

Diane Burke, CNM’s Workforce dean, says New Mexico’s strong solar and wind power industries give our state an edge.

“The natural resources, and then the intellectual capital and then the partnerships and the training and the education,” Burke said. “I think we’ve got the whole package here.”

Well, maybe not the whole package. The batteries for Tesla cars are lithium batteries and there’s only one active lithium mine in the United States – and it’s in Nevada.

There are concerns about New Mexico’s round-the-clock access to north-south railroad freight transportation. Will there be enough capacity to haul loads of the heavy batteries back to Tesla’s assembly plant in Palo Alto, California? Stay tuned!

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