TRIC embraces Tesla and other big names

One end of Electric Avenue

One end of Electric Avenue

Giants like Tesla, Switch, PetSmart Distribution and Wal-Mart are among the 125 businesses found in the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center.

Tesla continues to be a buzzword throughout northern Nevada as it builds the biggest lithium ion battery factory in world. The Gigafactory, which gains its name from the unit “Giga” and the factory’s planned annual battery production, will also be bigger than the sum of all existing lithium ion battery factories in the world.

Pat Whitten, county manager for Storey County, recounted when the Tesla advance team visited the TRI Center as a possible site candidate for their Gigafactory. As they looked at the hilly and mountainous terrain of the area, there was a question of creating flat ground for their factory needs.

In another part of the park, Zulily’s parcel was in the process of being leveled, providing a concrete example of what’s involved.

The earth moving companies that create usable land for giant companies evaluate the highest and lowest points of an area and determine how to move the earth efficiently, using the high land to fill the low areas, creating a flat middle point that allows for facilities, like Gigafactory 1, to be constructed.

A county staff member on the tour explained the process this way: “At this stage you can’t think of the process as construction, but instead think of it as a small mining location,” Whitten quoted.

Thinking of the earth moving process in this manner may have helped keep the TRI Center as a candidate for the Tesla Gigafactory in the early stages. Construction for the first phase is well underway.

In Tesla’s most recent quarterly report with the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) published May 2, they reported, “a weekly average of 599 workers, of whom 458, or 76 percent were residents of Nevada.”

The project-to-date investment is reported to be $380 million and, for the mentioned date, the Gigafactory has a footprint of approximately 800,000 square feet, which includes approximately 1.9 million square feet of manufacturing space in the two-story building. A lot more is in the plan.

The report also indicates that Nevada GOED has determined Tesla to be making satisfactory progress.

Nevada is “a real get-things-done state,” Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla, said in a press conference video about their Gigafactory coming to Nevada posted on Tesla’s website. “That was a really important part of the decision.”

In the video, Musk goes on to highlight the Gigafactory being vital for the mass-market affordable electric car that has been the goal for Tesla from the beginning. Tesla desired a location that would open on time so that when they produce the vehicle, the factory can produce the battery packs while keeping operating cost of the factory low enough to keep the cars affordable.

Tesla unveiled their most affordable car to date, the Model 3, earlier this year advertising a starting price of $35,000 before incentives. When Tesla broke ground on the Gigafactory in June 2014 they projected cell production to begin in 2017 and to reach full capacity by 2020. The unveiling of the Model 3 also opened the market for deposits on the vehicle, which Tesla projects to be going out for delivery late 2017.

Tesla’s Web site explains, in cooperation with Panasonic and other partners, the Gigafactory will produce batteries for significantly less cost. The factory in the TRI Center will produce its’ own energy via geothermal, wind and solar energy. The Gigafactory will also use innovative manufacturing and optimization by locating most of their manufacturing process under one roof to keep costs down.

Other features of the Gigafactory include a diamond-shaped building to fit better with its surroundings by moving less earth than a square building would have required. The building also is aligned with true north so Tesla can use GPS to line out where equipment will be placed and it aids proper alignment of the solar panels on the roof.

While Nevada, through GOED, offers a variety of incentives to help qualifying companies make the decision to do business in the state, Tesla has not been silent in return.

“Tesla is paying their way,” said Whitten, while giving a tour of the TRI Center.

Tesla has helped with Storey County medical and primary response teams in the area, which also serve the Interstate-80 corridor until the proper jurisdiction comes along. They brought in a two-man crew, which the county then matched allowing adequate fire and paramedic service in the TRI Center. Tesla’s Gigafactory also requires a ladder fire truck, which they aided in buying and negotiated purchase terms with the county to eventually own the truck.

The name alone, Gigafactory 1, suggests there is more to come for Tesla. Gigafactory 1 resides on a street formally known as Portofino that was renamed Electric Avenue upon their request.

Tesla isn’t the only gamechanger in the center.

“Switch is helping to change our community just as much as Tesla has,” EDAWN President Mike Kazmierski said in an October 2015 article in NNBW.

The billion-dollar expansion in northern Nevada is part of the company’s growth as they expand beyond their Las Vegas data center location. Switch’s SUPERNAP data center is their largest project yet at 3 million square feet on 1,000 acres of land. According to Switch’s website, eBay will be their anchor tenant in their SUPERNAP data center located just east of Reno. This location will be connected to the Switch Superloop, which will connect to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco having the ability to communicate in under seven milliseconds.

“Offering our clients the ability to locate their infrastructure safely in two cities (Reno and Las Vegas), over 500 miles apart and yet only 7 milliseconds away is critical for both redundancy and scalability,” said Switch CEO and Founder Rob Roy in a press release. “The construction of SUPERNAP Reno will create the need for Switch to expand its Las Vegas footprint and Nevada will remain Switch’s global anchor location.”

Switch brought high speed Internet into the county space in the TRI Center and have invested in downtown Reno’s Innevation Center, “Powered by Switch,” which is a collaborative environment to stimulate a knowledge-driven economy in the region.

“Rob Roy and his team are true Nevada,” said Whitten.

Other big names like Wal-Mart, distribute food from their space in the TRI Center and PetSmart even imports and exports exotic fish. As progress continues and the TRI Center grows it will be interesting to see what other names, big and small, will call Storey County home.


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