Texas county officials where Tesla is seriously considering a Cybertruck factory are still debating over an incentive package to help bring the electric carmaker to the Lone Star State.
After two nights of discussion on the pros and cons of the move, the Travis County Commissioners Court has again postponed a vote on the matter to a date next week; however, from the recent comments, it’s clear that while many local executives and business leaders are optimistic about the economic benefits of Tesla’s presence, they have concerns about taxpayers and worker benefits.
During the Court’s session on July 7th, itself a continuation of a discussion on the matter in the prior week, several community call-ins indicated a wariness towards large employers that may not have the local taxpayers and employees’ best interest at heart.
“We are enthusiastic about companies that would like to come and take advantage of our vibrant culture and economy. With regard to Tesla, we’d like to affirm they are welcome, and that as long as they are spending their own money they are welcome to come on their own terms. If, however, they want local taxpayers to help pay for their move, the county needs to hold Tesla accountable to the same standards that it holds itself accountable to. In particular…a livable minimum wage,” commented Michael Floyd, a leader within the All Saints’ Episcopal Church in central Texas.
Jessica Wolff, deputy policy director for Workers Defense Project added, “Tesla has said that they will provide 5,000 middle skilled jobs. Our community needs more transparency. We need specifics. What types of jobs? How many will be temporary vs. permanent? What are the starting wages and benefits each will receive?”
Notably, Tesla seems to have provided fairly specific wage and benefit information in a presentation considered by the Travis County Court on June 23rd this year. Tesla’s impact on the Reno, Nevada community surrounding Gigafactory 1 could also be a positive testament to the carmaker’s potential benefit to Texas.
Manuel Quinto-Pozos, representing the UAW and himself as an employment lawyer, agreed with Wolff’s comments and requested that Tesla expands on its concerns with previously discussed building standards. Jeremy Hendricks, representing local construction labor unions, also requested complete transparency in the onboarding process to ensure minimal pay and safety for workers. On a more negative note, caller Juan Bellman was completely opposed to any incentives being offered by the community. “I wanted to oppose Tesla receiving any economic development incentives,” he said bluntly. “As mentioned, I went to Travis High School and I know that my community does not need a multi-billion [dollar] company coming and receiving those taxes that I know the community needs more than them.”
The Court reconvened on July 8th where the call-in comments were more enthusiastic about the economic prospects from Tesla’s presence.
“I’m calling to urge you to approve this deal and bring Tesla to the region,” rallied executive director Ed Latson of Austin Regional Manufacturers Association (ARMA). “We think it’s an extraordinary opportunity, a political win, a cultural win, and an economic win that we have never seen. This court has the opportunity to bring hundreds of millions of dollars of economic impact to a region that has been neglected economically…[and]…impacted negatively by the current economic conditions and really give them skills and a pathway to the middle class.”
The incentives being discussed are property tax rebates worth around $15 million dollars over the course of ten years. In addition to economic incentives from Travis County, Tesla is pursuing a school tax abatement request with the Del Valle Independent School District which would save the company around $50 million over the same ten year time period. Their application package has been submitted and approved, but the District’s Board has yet to take a vote on the matter. Tesla’s decision on whether to make the Austin area its new home may hinge on gaining these tax approvals and community resistance may also explain CEO Elon Musk’s continued consideration of Tulsa, Oklahoma as an alternative location.
The Travis County Court again postponed a vote on the incentives after the July 8th session, the judge indicating that another discussion would be held on July 14th.