Tucson still in running for Tesla factory

Tucson still in running for Tesla factory

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson has a reputation, some believe well earned, of being downright unfriendly to business.

But in recent years, it has tried to shed that image or at least peel it back.

It's latest step will likely get the ball rolling in that direction.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Development Services Director Ernie Duarte put together a city of Tucson permit which cuts the red tape if Tesla decided to build its new Gigafactory here.

Tesla is looking for a site on which to build it's five million square foot, $5 billion battery factory which will employ 6,500 workers.

California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Arizona are all in the running.

Tucson argues it has many amenities which the company will find attractive such as solar research, Mars landing program at the U of A (which the company has expressed an interest), rail lines which extend into Mexico, a tech park, and others.

What it also has is a morass of rules and regulations which sometimes inhibit job creation and growth.

Tesla brought that up when it visited a Tucson site it is interested in.

That prompted the Mayor's permit.

"It's really an invitation to them to say we're ready to do business when you are," says Rothschild.

Tesla says it has already broken ground on a potential site in Nevada but all the other states remain in the game.

That may be a good business decision because it means the states will continue to compete and it protects the company from any unexpected problems which might crop up forcing a quick move or decision.

But for Tucson, just being in the game this late in the process in probably a good learning experience and sets the groundwork for the future.

"Having a permit like that means there's no red tape, that's a big deal," says Tony Ford, the CEO of Artfire, Inc. and innovator for Tucson's tech industry. "It sends a message that Tucson is very co-operative to try to get economic development to bring companies here."

And it goes a long ways towards dispelling the image of Tucson as unfriendly to business.

"A business friendly environment has to start somewhere," Ford says. "If you do what you've always done, you just get what you got."

The Mayor agrees the process in a learning curve which may pave the way for development in the future.

Even if the city doesn't win the Tesla contract, it may win others.

"The next company that comes along, they're going to be looking at more than one place too," he says.

A letter for Tesla share holders says the company has started work on a site in Nevada.

It states: "In June, we broke ground just outside Reno, Nevada on a site that could potentially be the location for the Gigafactory. Consistent with our strategy to identify and break ground on multiple sites, we continue to evaluate other locations in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The final site for the first Gigafactory will be determined in the next few months, once we have full visibility and agreement on the relevant incentives and processes for enabling the Gigafactory to be fully operational. The plant could employ as many as 6,500 people and Mayor Jonathan Rothschild is trying to keep Tucson in the hunt by sending Tesla a pre-approved building permit."

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