“Tesla magic” firing up Bay Area

Tesla job fair Fremont 5-3-14 TeslaMondoWhere Toyota, GM and even Solyndra left a black hole in California’s Bay Area, Tesla is filling the void, and fast. This excellent piece about Tesla’s regional “orbit” is too long to read over breakfast, so here’s a nutshell version:

Despite Tesla’s heavy use of robotics, the company is already the biggest auto employer in California and is still hiring like it’s 1999. Remember the job fair in May? It was shut down immediately due to crowds (pictured).

The number of jobs inside the Fremont plant — never mind the tangents — is approaching the Toyota/GM level of yesteryear, when Tesla’s plant was New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. and spat out Corollas and Prizms.

Combined, Tesla and its nearby suppliers have grabbed 780,000 sq ft of industrial space in the region just in the last couple of months. And the team likely needs another million square feet, say real estate observers. Sheesh. Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison: “Tesla’s a special company and people want to be associated with them and close to them. We’re seeing interest in our commercial buildings and spec buildings. They want to be around Tesla and part of the Tesla magic.”

Local schools are refining their curricula to get in on the action. The San Jose-Evergreen Community College District will soon open a $12m auto-tech building to focus on electric/hybrid tech. College official: “Automotive is very sexy right now because it includes this technology, creativity, design. All the kids are saying, ‘Yeah, can we get a Tesla to drive?’ Tesla has changed the industry of automotive.”

Master plan for Tesla area: Create a new “innovation district” around a new Bay Area Rapid Transit station. Huh? It means a mini-city with housing, stores, parks and high-tech manufacturing buildings. Rather than sitting in traffic constantly, you take the train or even live right near Tesla and suppliers, in the mini-city — like living on a Tesla campus. Mayor Harrison: “We need to make sure we’re building supporting services around there,” he said. “We need to make sure that is an area where employees want to go. They’re a tech company, and they don’t want their employees sitting in a car all day.”

Dougherty & Co. financial analyst says Tesla can afford to do more manufacturing and assembly in expensive California than other automakers. “Their gross margins are great — in the first quarter, they were 25.3 percent,” she said. That means for every dollar they make on the car, it takes them 75 cents to make it. That’s a really good margin, so why move out of California? I think there’s a lot of benefits from having manufacturing close to the headquarters.”

And California has the high-tech cachet, no doubt. Though Reno, NV is now tinkling with glee after Tesla announced it has already broken ground for a potential Gigafactory there. Northern Nevada already boasts facilities from Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Zulily. Touché!

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