Inside Tucson Business

A couple of stories, albeit loosely sourced, in the Phoenix Business Journal last week handicapped the $5 billion Tesla battery plant sweepstakes and gave an area near Reno, Nev., the early lead.

From the Nevada story:

Northern Nevada is the front runner to land Tesla Motors’ $5 billion electric battery factory, though the California automaker is still talking to Texas, Arizona and New Mexico officials about incentive packages for the 1,000-acre site selection.

Multiple business and political sources in the Phoenix area say the Reno area in northern Nevada is the odds-on favorite to land the Tesla plant, which would encompass as much as 10 million square feet and employ 6,500 workers. Those officials asked not to be identified.

A story earlier in the week that looked at Arizona sites said Tesla doesn't want to be too close to a major metro and suggested the top Arizona site is near Eloy, with Phoenix's agricultural West Valley the next most likely spot.

Tucson's suggested site south of Raytheon is too close to the city and not big enough, the story suggests.

From the March 24 story:

If Tesla Motors lands its $5 billion battery factory in the Phoenix area, it will likely be in an outlying town such as Buckeye or Casa Grande -- one with with plenty of available desert land and railroad access to California.

Multiple sources familiar with Tesla’s site selection peg far West Valley or Pinal County locations adjacent to railroad links as the focus of the electric carmaker’s search in the Valley.

There are development plans and a proposed Union Pacific railroad yard project near Picacho Peak in Pinal County, and a number of large parcels of land are available in Buckeye and other West Valley markets.

And yesterday, the San Jose Mercury News reported that El Paso economic development officials, who also represent southern New Mexico, said Tesla officials told them they didn't make the short list.

Of course, none of this means Tucson is out of the running, or that any of the speculation above is real. Tesla has shown in the past to be rather capricious and arbitrary in its corporate decisions.

For instance, when it was looking for a place to build its assembly plant, it apparently had a deal with Albuquerque, but backed out at the last minute. 

Nevertheless, New Mexico and Albuquerque are all in on the "giggafactory," putting together an even more aggressive package than it had for the assembly plant and the state Legislature is considering repealing a law that would prevent Tesla from selling its cars in the state (so is Arizona.)

It also jilted Downey, Calif., for the assembly plant, causing pretty hard feelings with the people of Downey.

And building the battery plant in California near its assembly plant makes the most sense, but for reasons unknown, Tesla has ruled out the entire state of California for the battery factory.

So, Tesla's history shows that if word leaks that a deal is done, take it with a grain of salt. Until Tesla announces where it's building its $5 billion plant, there is no deal. 

That said, if not Tucson, a plant between Eloy and Casa Grande would still be good for Tucson, especially Marana, just not as good if it were built in or next to the Old Pueblo.