Council to divvy up $30M meant to lure Tesla

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ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – When New Mexico made a bid to bring Tesla’s gigafactory here, Albuquerque chipped in.

The Albuquerque City Council and Mayor R.J. Berry signed off on $30 million worth of bond money to lure the electric automaker.

“It showed and demonstrated that Albuquerque’s a player when it comes to economic development,” said Gilbert Montano, Berry’s chief of staff.

It also didn’t work in this case. In September, Tesla passed on New Mexico’s offer, opting for Nevada’s $1.25 billion incentive package instead.

But that $30 million didn’t go away when Tesla went elsewhere. Under the legislation that money was approved in, if Tesla didn’t take the deal then city council gets to spend it on capital projects of its choosing. Each of the nine city councilors get $3 million. The mayor’s office gets a say on how to invest the remaining $3 million, but it’s city council who has the final say this time.

“This is entirely up to the city council to decide,” said city councilor Dan Lewis.

So what are they looking to spend it on at this point?

Some ideas floated by councilors in conversations with KRQE News 13 on Monday, include improving the Westgate Community Center, building a new Southeast Area Command for APD and a visitor’s center on Route 66.

One idea endorsed by several lawmakers is investing a good chunk of that $30 million into a Westside Sports Complex. In April, the city bought 81 acres of land for a string of baseball and soccer fields as well as tennis courts on the west edge of town. That land is adjacent to the relatively new Community Stadium, APS’ West Side football stadium.

“We’re losing a lot of economic dollars that go to other states because we don’t have the kind of facilities that are going to attract the kind of regional tournaments that facilities like that can attract,” Lewis said.

“I think it would be an economic boost to our community to get some of those projects going,” said Albuquerque City Council president Ken Sanchez.

But the Berry administration is politely asking councilors to put the brakes on spending the cash.

“We are in current negotiations and talks with several other prime manufacturing companies that have significant interest in Albuquerque,” Montano said. “These are 800 jobs, these are 500 jobs. I mean these are big opportunities.”

To try and turn those opportunities into realities, the mayor’s office wants to hold back a big chunk of that money for incentives.

“We want to use it for game changing opportunities,” Montano said. “We want to have that money go for the largest bang for buck.”

Councilors that KRQE News 13 spoke to, say they’ll take the mayor’s office’s suggestions to heart and will work with the administration.

Both the Berry administration and city councilors seemed open to using some of the $30 million to spend on a bus rapid transit line along Central from 98th street to Tramway.

Council is expected to present a full plan for how it wants to spend that $30 million two weeks from now.

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