NM reforms may help win Tesla battery factory

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — The stakes are getting higher in the fight to get electric car maker Tesla to build a massive game-changing new battery factory in New Mexico.

Neighboring states are now laying out their ideas to try to convince the company to choose them. So how’s New Mexico selling itself?

Landing Tesla could mean 6,500 new jobs for New Mexico and Governor Susana Martinez says the state is on a good footing to compete for the brand that could give a huge boost to the state’s economy.

“We are not going to jump ahead of ourselves, we’re still talking, we’re still having conversations, but of course we’d be very proud to have them,” said Gov. Martinez.

The electric car maker wants to build a “gigafactory” or battery factory somewhere in the Southwest. New Mexico is one of four states in competition for it.

“Tesla is an upcoming and company, it is innovative, it is growing, it would be make us very proud to welcome them to the state of New Mexico,” said Gov. Martinez.

But the competition for those jobs is now boiling over. Nevada newspapers recently reported that state trying to sell itself on how close it is to Tesla’s California base. Sunday, Arizona newspapers reported that Tucson will offer Tesla tax breaks if it lands the factory.

So what is New Mexico going to offer to try to win?

“These are things that we don’t necessarily discuss openly,” said Gov. Martinez.

The governor won’t say much now out of respect for the negotiation process. However, she says she’s hopeful thanks to some recent moves this legislative session.

Martinez says lawmakers added new funding to the “JTIP” or “Job Training Incentives Program” this year which pays employee salaries while they’re being trained.

“We also put in 15 million dollars for LEDA dollars in the budget,” said Governor Martinez.

The “Local Economic Development Act” or “LEDA” money can go into road, water, sewer and other infrastructure projects surrounding new developments.

“It would be a wonderful thing,” said Duane Ross, an Albuquerque resident and owner of a Tesla car.

Ross showed up in his Tesla to one of the Governor’s bill signing events on Sunday. Ross, who’s also a board member at the American Lung Association, says regardless of the Tesla events, he would have gone to the event regardless as the Governor was signing a lung-related bill that gives schools emergency access to allergy related medication. However, Ross says with the recent possibility of Tesla locating his battery factory to New Mexico, he specifically drove his Tesla car to the event Sunday with hope that the Governor would get to see it.

“If there’s a chance to have her see it and understand what she was supporting it would be great to do that,” said Ross.

Looking at the car, Martinez appeared impressed by the technology.

Tesla is planning to make a decision on the gigafactory’s location sometime in the next few months. According to the company’s plans, Tesla hopes to have the factory open by 2017. The car maker estimates it will spend between 4 and 5 billion dollars on the factory’s construction, preparation and operation by 2020.

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