Will a new Tesla factory energize Nevada’s economy?
BY JOHN STEPHENS III
With more than $1 billion in tax breaks — and the blessing of Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Nevada Legislature — Tesla Motors is slated to build a lithium-ion factory near Reno.
The new energy technology deal could breathe life into job-creation efforts statewide. It was made possible by legislation that provided Tesla with the most generous tax incentives in Nevada history.
“I’m thrilled that a company like Tesla is coming into our [Nevada] community,” said Katherine Duncan, president of the Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce. “We can’t sit and wait around for an opportunity to come to us.m We have to get at the forefront of this. If we don’t know … how can we get prepared?”
The factory is slated to be built on about 980 acres, and promises to usher in 6,500 jobs once fully operational. Reno is only 250 miles from Tesla’s factory in Fremont, Calif.
“Are we going to be prepared to do these jobs?” asks Yvette Williams, chair for the Clark County Black Caucus. “We are living in an emerging and changing economy, and need companies like Tesla to put training programs together for our youth so they can obtain permanent work.”
“The Tesla Gigafactory was born out of necessity and will supply enough batteries to support our projected vehicle demand,” Tesla Motors in a statement. “The factory’s planned annual battery production capacity of 35 gigawatt- hours (GWh) … we expect to drive down the per kilowatt hour cost of our battery pack by more than 30%.”
“One of the main reasons that Tesla decided to build the Gigafactory in Reno was the time of completion,” said Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla Motors. “Nevada was able to provide permits for us quicker than other competing states.”
In return for an ideal location, healthy tax incentives and an expedited permitting process, Tesla had agreed to help the Nevada develop technical skills training to help prepare residents for employment opportunities once the Gigafactory is up and running. To accomplish this, $1 million will be contributed to the University of Nevada-Reno for battery research programs, along with $37.5 million earmarked for K-12 education.
“We can have as many training facilities as we want, but we need to have more commitments from companies coming here, or already here, to create jobs and hire people,” said Williams.
Williams cited statistics showing that, as of September 2015, unemployment among whites stood at 6.4%, Hispanics at 7.9%, and blacks at 13.6%. “Blacks’ unemployment rates are almost double every other racial group,” she said. “We are given the perception that we have a recovering economy, but that may not be true for everybody. We are not asking for a handout — just an opportunity to have access to a job.”
“There are business opportunities to look at,” said Duncan. “We need to look past the jobs and open businesses to hire us [blacks] as well as other people.” North Las Vegas also got some exciting economic news when Faraday Future, an electric car manufacturer, selected the city as the site of a new factory. It comes with a near billion-dollar price tag and a promise of thousands of new jobs.
“This is great that the jobs and the money are coming to Nevada,” said Williams, “but that doesn’t necessarily translate to jobs for us.”