State working hard to convince Tesla to build factory here

Updated: 03/10/2014 6:22 PM | Created: 03/10/2014 6:18 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

New Mexico negotiators are working harder than ever to try to convince Tesla Motors to build its giant new lithium battery plant in our state.

We don’t know exactly what is on the table, because economic development officials are sworn to secrecy. But we do have a pretty good idea about what New Mexico needs to offer to keep up with the other finalist states – Texas, Arizona, and Nevada.

Tesla calls it a ‘gigafactory” – a $5 billion plant that will employ 6,500 workers, powered by wind and solar energy. Negotiations are so tight even Gov. Susana Martinez can’t say much about it.

“I can’t go into specifics, I really can’t,” Martinez said Monday. “That is something we committed to with Tesla, but you can count on the fact that we are working extra hard and doing everything that is at our fingertips.”

Experienced people in the economic development field who are not involved with this particular deal say land will play a big part in Tesla’s decision. The company needs 1,000 acres – about  2 square miles.  Our expert sources say New Mexico will need to offer that land, almost certainly in the Albuquerque metro area. The state does have that kind of acreage to offer, state land commissioner Ray Powell said last week. Tesla will also want hundreds of millions for infrastructure and job training for all of those workers, our experts say, along with a long term tax break in the neighborhood of a half a billion dollars.

“We’ve got to be smart about it,” Gov. Martinez said. “We’ve got to make sure that communication continues, and they are continuing, so we’re not done yet in making sure what is possible.”

New Mexico is facing stiff competition from the other finalist states. Nevada is closest to Tesla’s assembly plant near Palo Alto, California, and it also has the nation’s only lithium mine. Arizona has plenty of space and abundant wind and solar energy, but  analysts say the conservatively –governed state may not have much of an appetite for government incentives. Texas is already heavily into the auto business, with General Motors and Toyota truck plants. Now they’re eager to haul in Tesla too.

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