State lawmakers insist New Mexico could still land Tesla factory

Posted at: 07/07/2014 5:09 PM
Updated at: 07/07/2014 5:15 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

First it was April – then June – now it’s July and there’s still no final decision from Tesla Motors about where the electric car company will break ground for its giant battery factory.

Many New Mexicans wonder if there’s any hope left – and key people in the campaign to bring it here say now is not the time to give up.

There’s a lot at stake here – 6,500 new jobs in a $5 billion factory – in the Albuquerque metro area which is one of just a few in the nation that is mired in a double-dip recession.

Leaders in both major political parties insist New Mexico is still a strong competitor in a field that now includes 4 other states – California, Nevada, Texas and Arizona.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently said his company might break ground in two or three other states for what would be the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery factory, manufacturing the key component for electric cars.

State lawmakers on the legislature’s Economic Development Committee met in Albuquerque Monday at the UNM Science and Research Park.

Tesla was not on the agenda, but it was on everybody’s mind – especially lawmakers from Albuquerque where the factory would be.

“Tesla is going to try to work out the best deal that it can and it’s going to take time,” said Rep. Bill Rehm, a Republican representing a large part of the Northeast Heights. “It’s a large investment, and the one thing I’m happy about is that it’s going to be in multiple states which increases our odds.”

“We’re doing a number of creative things to try to win Tesla, from free land to economic incentives,” said Sen. Michael Padilla, a South Valley Democrat. “You name it, but when we look at legislation we should look at legislation that’s great public policy for all New Mexicans, not just for one company.”

Rehm, Padilla and other lawmakers said they do not favor a special session at this point to come up with more incentives for Tesla.

They do say they want to do more to make New Mexico more and more attractive for companies that want to start up here or relocate here.

Tesla needs the battery plant in a hurry.

The company plans to start selling a $35,000 electric car in 2017 – that’s half the price of the current Tesla “S” model.

Everything depends on batteries that will cost less to produce.