Tesla Motors / Panasonic seeking ‘trained Nevadans’ Storey County comptroller says

Hugh Gallagher III, Storey County comptroller, talks about Tesla Motors impact to the region Tuesday at Rotary.

Hugh Gallagher III, Storey County comptroller, talks about Tesla Motors impact to the region Tuesday at Rotary.

A “huge dynamic” due to Tesla Motors/Panasonic labor needs will fall squarely on Nevada educators and trainers, a Carson City Rotary Club luncheon audience was told Tuesday.

Hugh Gallagher III, Storey County comptroller, made that and various other points during a presentation on Tesla, Panasonic and other companies in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center (TRIC). When he wasn’t talking about millions or billions of dollars, Gallagher was looking ahead to future prospects and needs. Included in those, he said, were labor needs because incentive measures meant half the technology-savvy workers must be from Nevada.

“This is a huge dynamic for the University of Nevada and our community colleges,” said Gallagher. He said the TRIC park already has 76 companies along Interstate 80, with 1.2 million square feet of space and more than 9,000 workers. He said, however, the park is just 60 percent along with ample development expected to come, The Tesla/Panasonic combination, for example, projects 6,500 employees eventually.

“We anticipate 40,000 employees being there at one time,” Gallagher said of TRIC, noting the center will affect the whole region. He said there may be a need for another on-off ramp along Interstate 80 there. He also talked of the USA Parkway, saying it will cost $70 million as part of the regional road network.

Giving one example of TRIC’s potential impact, Gallagher said the mile long, three story Tesla facility may spawn another like it as Tesla/Panasonic make not only motor car batteries, but batteries for homes and businesses as well.

“The home battery thing is very, very dynamic,” said Gallagher. “This pits Elon Musk against Warren Buffett.” His reference was to Musk, as head of Tesla Motors and other firms, and Buffett, the billionaire whose Berkshire Hathaway holdings include Nevada Energy. Gallagher said the Tesla deal included $1.2 billion in incentives called abatements, brings investment of at least $3.5 billion, and there are payback provisions in law should Tesla pull out later.

He said SWITCH, another firm that’s receiving abatements, is investing $1 billion and its facility on 1,000 acres is going to be part of a super loop linking San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Reno in the co-location data firm’s technology plans. He said 50 million people will be milliseconds from data.

More companies are expected to come, he said, including hotels and retail in the industrial center. He said the 110,000 acres of TRIC property, much of once was ranching land, meant the county southeast of Reno has come a long way in the past 20 years. He said Storey County was on the Nevada Department of Taxation watch list in 1997, but TRIC has helped heal such financial woes. “We have done relatively well since then,” he said.

But as a finance guy, he said, he’s uncomfortable with any pie-in-the-sky projections. He said he knows the county is already “on the hook” for $46 million that includes infrastructure costs, and he has “paranoia on several levels.” Among his concerns are those infrastructure costs, which would grow as TRIC does, more county fire fighting and hazardous materials capability needs, and revenue questions that could come due to abatements.


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