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We’re here for you, Tesla: We’ll make you proud

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Dear Tesla,

Please bring your 6,500-job battery factory to New Mexico.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m guessing it’s all right to say a bunch of New Mexicans, maybe even most of us, would say “Boy, howdy” to this deal.

Especially if the operation, supporting your electric car factory out in California, would be as green as you say. And, of course, we sure could use it, job-wise.

We’ve been struggling to diversify our economy. We rely way too much on government employment and that’s getting as shaky as Congress on a critical vote. The drought makes the long-term withering of our agriculture seem all the more painful.

Sure, we have two national labs, four military bases and an Intel plant. Gov. Susana Martinez is trying to build on health care employment, and her administration is helping on the development of Santa Teresa, down in Doña Ana County, into a super industrial center and transportation hub right on the border with Mexico. Eclipse in Albuquerque just delivered the first of its new 550 model very light jets.

Albuquerque recently got a financial go-ahead from a group representing 22 of the of the world’s largest charitable foundations and financial institutions to work on “economic mobility projects.” The grant work could tie into the University of New Mexico’s “Innovate ABQ” effort to create a Downtown research district where startup companies, researchers, students and entrepreneurs are housed together to brainstorm.

There’s a striking, new Spaceport America sitting in the desert between Socorro and Truth or Consequences, ready for private, commercial spaceflights.

Tesla Motors, the California-based electric-car start-up, is considering four states, including New Mexico, to build a multi-billion-dollar battery "gigafactory" that would employ up to 6,500 workers. (Eric Risberg/The Associated Press)

Tesla Motors, the California-based electric-car startup, is considering four states, including New Mexico, to build a multi-billion-dollar battery “gigafactory” that would employ up to 6,500 workers. (Eric Risberg/The Associated Press)

We seem to be on the brink of big things. But people still make fun of us for being sort of a colony, overly dependent on government spending and employment.

Tesla, we’d like to be more than that. You could help boost us into the mainstream and beyond.

Again, I can’t speak for everyone. This isn’t one of your PowerPoint presentations. I can’t talk financial incentives. I’ll leave that to the governor and the economic development pros.

I’m a just a regular guy who thinks New Mexico is a pretty cool place. These are my two cents about why I think you should choose us over Arizona, Nevada and Texas – those other states on your short list for the battery plant.

I’ve got to tell you first what got me thinking about all this. I’m afraid it was a memorial service for a 35-year employee of the same company I work for.

Yolanda Lunsford was kind of our sunshine around here. The service for her was packed, standing room only. It was clear in that church full of family members, friends and co-workers how important family had been to her, how close that big family is, and why Yolanda stayed home and went to work for the Albuquerque Journal after graduating from Rio Grande High School.

I started to think how important employment can be to families sticking together. It made me think about what Tesla could mean to New Mexico – a good place where people like to stay.

But I’d better get back to brass tacks.

We have a diverse population, Tesla, really blue skies, clean air and a lot of open space.

I know the other guys have some of those qualities, but a lot people think ours are kind of special. We’ve nicknamed our place The Land of Enchantment. The artists among us say it’s the light. For sure, we don’t have the dust or humidity of Texas, the light pollution of Nevada.

We don’t have wads of cash to throw around, but we’ve managed our state finances wisely and our political leaders suggest that those two national labs could be of some help to you. We’ve got good universities, too, raring to be part of the game.

You want to talk green? Heck, our two United States senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, are two of the greenest guys around.

And business climate? Our governor is all about being business-friendly.

Water? Shoot, Texas can’t be that confident of its supply if it’s in court trying to get ours.

It gets hot in all of your finalist states. But, as any New Mexican will tell you, it’s a dry heat here.

You might have heard some people talking trash about New Mexico politics, but, heh, let’s get real. Whose politics are kookier than Arizona’s?

Sometimes our legislators can’t see beyond the ends of their own noses, but somehow we keep bumping along. We actually have the oldest capitol in the country up in Santa Fe. The original building has been standing since 1610. This has got to indicate some kind of long-term wherewithal.

I’m pretty sure most of our New Mexico lawmakers would go out of their way to welcome you if they thought you actually were going to come. I’m guessing they’d be willing to forget the last time, when that guy Schwarzenegger out in California came up with hundreds of millions to keep your electric car factory in his state.

And look at our congressional delegation. Those folks don’t always see eye to eye, but you’ll remember that all five of them sent you a letter last month touting, in unison, New Mexico’s benefits and saying we’re “the perfect place for your factory.”

Well, I’d better wrap it up here, Tesla.

I’ll just say again that we’re a pretty cool state.

We’re also the only one with an official state question – “Red or green?”

Come on over and we’ll explain.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to John Robertson at jrobertson@abqjournal.com or 823-3911. Go to abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

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