Even if Intel maintains its Rio Rancho facility, it would be beneficial to the slow-growth New Mexico economy for the state to be the location of the Tesla battery gigafactory.
However, if persistent rumors prove to be accurate and Intel closes its Rio Rancho facility, then it is IMPERATIVE that New Mexico attracts not only the Tesla battery factory, but Elon Musk himself. How can this be made to happen?
First, New Mexico must offer the going rate in land, education/training and tax incentives that Arizona, Texas, Nevada and California will offer Tesla. To win Intel’s love, New Mexico provided financial incentives that exceeded $400k per job created. Most of the Asian and European auto manufacturers that located along the I-75 corridor received financial incentives that amounted to $250k per job created.
If New Mexico wants to compete with the big boys – and Texas, Arizona, Nevada and California are big boys – it has to match their financial incentives. However, while doing that is necessary, it may not be sufficient to win Elon’s love.
Second, to close the deal with Tesla, New Mexico must commit to the premise that our economic future is built on alternative energy, particularly photovoltaics and wind. That commitment includes:
- Leading the world in creating a market for batteries built in the gigafactory.
- Establishing the University of New Mexico as a battery center of excellence including electrochemistry, manufacturing, reversed aging, alternative applications for used batteries and battery monitoring and control systems.
- Becoming the world’s poster child for building and installing off-grid electric power systems.
- Creating a local market for batteries built in the gigafactory would emphasize developing regulations favoring electric vehicle and energy storage systems for photovoltaics and wind. Possibilities include:
- Rio Rancho – advertised to be the City of Vision – develops a 20-year plan that takes it off-grid for electricity and in 2016 requires all new residence and business construction to be off-grid.
- N.M. 528 has lanes north and south through Rio Rancho for the exclusive use of electric vehicles including plug-hybrids and extended range vehicles.
- By 2020 all state-owned educational and government buildings will be off-grid.
- New Mexico waives the sales tax on vehicles containing components built in New Mexico when the value of those components exceed 20 percent of the vehicle sale price – the case for electric vehicles – and permits manufacturers to sell these vehicles directly to consumers. These vehicles also have free parking at all state-owned parking facilities including those located on university property.
- New Mexico matches the federal tax incentives for construction of photovoltaic arrays when those arrays include battery storage.
- New Mexico’s state-owned colleges and universities will offer free evening courses on electric vehicles, photovoltaics, wind-power generation, energy conservation, power electronics, power semiconductors, etc. to state residents.
- By 2016 all new vehicles purchased by the City of Rio Rancho will be electric vehicles.
- By 2020 all delivery vehicles used in Rio Rancho including Federal Express, U.S. Postal Service, etc., will be required to be electric vehicles.
We have waited for over 60 years for an engineer-turned-entrepreneur to come down off the hill at Los Alamos or out of the parched desert surrounding Sandia Labs carrying electronic tablets with an encrypted template for turning New Mexico into a technology-driven mecca for innovation. It is time to look other places!
We need the world’s master entrepreneur, Elon Musk, to come lead New Mexico’s sizeable but under-challenged engineering workforce into the future. If Elon is willing to move his business operation here, New Mexico could build him an off-grid castle on top of the Sandias complete with a landing pad for his helicopter.
And, in the unlikely event he tires of making money, we will elect him governor, U.S. senator or perhaps even king.
James Gover lives in Rio Rancho.