400 acres in metro area offered to Tesla

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It’s time for New Mexico to be practical, pragmatic and bold says one Albuquerque real estate broker.

With the Southwest abuzz with speculation about where Tesla Motors will build a brand new, 10-million-square-foot “gigafactory,” John Edward has put his land where his mouth is.

John Edward Edward Group owner

The Edward Group, which Edward founded and owns, has 400 acres it is willing to give to Tesla for a location for its proposed factory to entice the electric car builder to the Land of Enchantment.

While Edward is remaining mum on the exact location of the acreage, he did say it was within the Albuquerque metro area. That area encompasses Valencia, Bernalillo, Sandoval and Torrance counties.

In an open letter to Albuquerque Business First, Edward described the property as being next to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Transcom Line with a one-mile-long rail spur, near Albuquerque and two different large power lines, Interstate 25 and many other features.

Although he is an Albuquerque resident, in recent years the New Mexico native has attended Valencia County Planning and Zoning and Commission meetings, consistently advocating for projects such as solar fields. In those meetings, Edward has noted his family owns several thousand acres in Valencia County.

Earlier this year, Tesla Motors, based in Palo Alto, Calif., announced it was on the hunt for a location — possibly multiple locations — for a lithium-ion battery factory.

The plant is projected to produce enough batteries by 2020 to power 500,000 Tesla vehicles a year.

That level of battery production is key to Tesla’s plans to begin selling a new car model in 2017 that will sell for $35,000, about half the cost of its Tesla S model.

The company announced it was considering locations in five states, including New Mexico, and added the additional carrot that it may break ground in multiple states to ensure production schedules aren’t delayed. The other states vying for the project are Texas, Arizona, Nevada and California.

Edward, who has been in business since 1996 as an insurance broker and real estate broker, said as a state, New Mexico needs to be more competitive to stay economically relevant.

“We can’t rely on the government to step up and fund everything,” Edward said. “Something like this could be giga-normous to coin a phrase.

“The state of New Mexico needs to be extremely vigilant about getting a company like this. This guy (Musk) is creating technologies and industries that are going to make the next 100 years look a lot different.”

Landing a company like Tesla would be an enormous benefit to not only the immediate community around the factory, Edward said, but the entire state.

“From the time the factory breaks ground until its millionth or billionth unit rolls off the line, all eyes will be on New Mexico letting people know, ‘Come do business with us. We are a competitive state,’” he said. “It’s time to show that we are competitive, for private citizens to step up. We need to be participants, not just residents.”

The plant is projected to bring 6,500 jobs to which ever state it lands in. Even with half that number, Edward said the ripple effect from those new employment opportunities are enormous.

“I cannot imagine a more positive disrupter than a job. It gives people, families, the resources to buy a house, buy a bigger house, have insurance, a healthier life, build schools, better schools,” he said. “Show me a productive person and I will show you someone who is happy.”

As everyone waits for an announcement from Tesla, Edward said he has heard there are other land offers around the state. And that kind of commitment, coupled with what New Mexico has to offer, might just be enough to woo the company.

When asked what he thought the chances were of New Mexico actually getting the gigafactory, Edward answered, straight faced, that we had a 20 percent chance.

“Well, there are five states,” he said, cracking a faint smile.

In all reality, Edward said he would give New Mexico a better than 50 percent chance of landing the gigafactory. The state has several advantages over the other states including two national labs, lots of sunshine for the renewable energy that will power the factory, rail access and it’s logistically well positioned, he said.

“I see this as a catalyst. To make a fire you need fuel, oxygen and an ignitor,” Edward said. “I wouldn’t want one thing to stand in the way of lighting that fire or keeping it from burning as brightly as it can.”


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.