Downey is finalist for Tesla plant

DOWNEY - Tesla Motors, an emerging leader in the manufacturing and sales of electric cars in North America and Europe, is considering opening a production and assembly plant in Downey which could create up to 1,200 local jobs, and city leaders are mounting an aggressive recruitment campaign to make the deal happen.Tesla received $465 million in low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Energy in June to accelerate the production of fuel-efficient electric vehicles, company officials said. Elon Musk, the South African-born CEO of Tesla, said he would build the plant on land currently occupied by Downey Studios or at a former Boeing facility near the Long Beach Airport. Tesla representatives are in negotiations with Industrial Realty Group (IRG), which operates Downey Studios, about how much land Tesla would require and other specifics, city officials said. The land encompasses a total of 80 acres; the city of Downey owns 20 of those acres. IRG did not return phone calls seeking comment, and a representative with Tesla said they would wait to speak to the media until after a decision has been made. A final decision is expected this month. City officials, however, are not sitting on their hands and waiting idly by. Mayor Mario Guerra said Downey officials have been in contact with Tesla the past six months, and while he would not divulge specific details of Downey's recruiting campaign, he acknowledged that it was aggressive and "we're in contact with them on a semi-daily basis." Councilman Luis Marquez said, "We're just showing them the Downey love." Musk has toured the Downey Studios complex twice, Guerra said. City officials are selling Musk on Downey's good schools, relatively low crime rate and a fiscally-sound community. "We are offering a stable, well-run, well-financed city," Guerra said. "We have low crime with our own police and fire departments, we have many economic pluses, and we also have a rich history and legacy that cannot be matched. And we hope Tesla will continue to write another chapter in our book of what a great city should be." Another selling point: the Downey Landing Specific Plan and environmental impact report prepared for the city in 2002 already allows for a production plant Tesla is proposing. "We're ready to go," Guerra said. Many Long Beach officials, meanwhile, are reportedly lukewarm to the idea of Tesla opening a production plant in their city, and have publicly stated their preference for a movie studio. Gerrie Schipske, councilwoman for Long Beach's fifth district, has been outspoken in her desire to have Tesla in Long Beach. But she alleged in an Aug. 14 blog entry that Mayor Bob Foster and City Manager Pat West were not returning phone calls from Tesla, jeopardizing a potential deal. "Mr. Musk says they want to come to Long Beach and manufacture 20,000 electric vehicles and produce 1,000 jobs. But they are looking elsewhere because no one at Long Beach seems interested," Schipske wrote. On Monday, Schipske issued a press release titled "Long Beach - We Can Do Better Than Downey." Wherever it's located, the Tesla plant is expected to generate up to 1,200 jobs, and Musk has said he would attempt to fill the positions locally. Downey Studios, by contrast, produces only 40 full-time jobs, city officials said. Production companies bring in union employees and catering companies from out of the area. Until Tesla makes its final decision, Downey officials said they would continue to woo the company. They are also asking residents, community leaders and business owners to write letters to Tesla asking them to come to Downey. "Tesla would be great for Downey and the region," Marquez said, before Guerra added, "If ever there was a time for the Downey community to come together, this is the time to do it."

HOW TO HELP City officials are asking the public's help in recruiting Tesla Motors to Downey. Residents are encouraged to write to: Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla Motors and SpaceX, 1 Rocket Road, Hawthorne, CA 90250

********** Published: September 4, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 20

NewsEric Pierce