News - April 26, 2017 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

Tesla's massive gigafactory at the Reno Tahoe Industrial Complex is making more than car batteries. As Gov. Brian Sandoval reported in his State of the State speech in January, the electric-car maker will also produce electric motors and gear boxes for Tesla’s Model 3 vehicles.

Yet someday, Tesla could expand to also produce cars in at its 3,000-acre, Northern Nevada location east of Reno, said Lance Gilman, partner-broker of TRI.

"Sure, there is no question about that possibility," Gilman said on Nevada Newsmakers when asked if Tesla could manufacture cars someday at TRI, later adding:

"Telsa continues to expand their vision, I don't even believe they have tapped the surface yet of what they are really planning," Gilman said.

Gilman hedged a bit, saying, "I would be remiss to suggest that I sit at a desk and realize or know exactly what they are planning."

Recent conversations with Union Pacific Railroad and the Port of Oakland point to manufacturing cars at TRI, Gilman said.

"They (Union Pacific) are talking about an Intermodal yard over here (at TRI) of 150 acres," Gilman said. "Right now in Sparks, our largest Intermodal yard is right behind the Sparks Nugget and its on a seven-acre site. So when you start looking at a 150-acre Intermodal yard and when you start talking to the Port of Oakland and they are all casting their glance over in our direction, is there something else going on?

"And they are talking a lot about cars, not specifically about any company we have here," Gilman said. "But Union Pacific is talking about about the ability to ship, import and export cars out of our area. So I think the stars are lining up in some way."

The Port of Oakland's interest in TRI stems from the lack of available land for "expansion property' in Oakland, Gilman said.

"If you take a look at what is happening in the Panama Canal, it has been enlarged, so we can now increase the shipping," Gilman said. "That is putting a lot of pressure on the western ports and certainly Oakland is feeling that pressure. So I have had some calls from some of the folks who are doing inland-port research right now out of Oakland. They don't have a lot of expansion property in the Bay Area there, so it makes some sense to come over the mountain, if you will."

Already, the gigafactory is more complex and has more technology than first imagined -- when Sandoval and the state of Nevada crafted a tax deal to bring Tesla to Northern Nevada in in 2014. And Tesla has a long way to go before expansion is complete, Gilman said.

"I watched  that same company come in and say, well, we're just going to build batteries for cars, a gigafactory," Gilman said. "And if you look art their product line now that is out there, they've got car batteries, they've got home batteries, power walls for your garage. They've got tile for your house that serves as solar collectors. They doing the motors for the cars. They are doing the transmissions for the cars.

Support companies for Tesla are arriving in Northern Nevada and that may also suggest car manufacturing, Gilman said.

"I noticed one (Tesla support company) just located as part of the Amazon building out in Fernley and that is where they are going to do a lot of their upholstery and things," Gilman said. "So all of a sudden, now, was that pre-planned by that very wise company that was just going to come in on a 100 acres to do a few batteries? Or did they really know what they were going to do? I'm sure it was a little bit of both."

He said when Tesla first arrived at TRI, they only wanted a 100-acre site. Now, they have 3,000 acres.

"I took them out and we selected a 100-acre site for a battery factory, for a gigafactory on 100 acres," he said. "And then I watched them, over the next weeks and months, as they got acquainted with our state, governor, with Storey County and other opportunities, I watched them go from 100 to maybe 300 acres and then they wanted 500 acres. So we took them to another valley for a larger site and they liked the 500 acres and by the time they closed, they enlarged that and were on 1,000 acres and they did that over a period of a year."

Although Tesla has 3,000 acres at TRI, much of that is on or near mountaintops for security.

Tesla's footprint in Northern Nevada most likely will keep expanding, Gilman said.

"They were only going to build 6-million feet," Gilman said of Tesla's original plans. "That is what they told the governor when they got their (tax) incentive package, what, 3 years ago? They were only going to build 6-million feet. Well, they are over 7-million feet today and that's only 30 percent of the building they are building."

Town center planned
Gilman also mentioned a huge "town center" at TRI, saying he has a 600-acre site with a lake he would like to develop.

"I also have been meeting now with some phenomenal developers from Las Vegas who have done a lot of their lakes and systems there," Gilman said. "And we have the lake that we have built in the center of the park, so we can re-utilized reclaimed water.

"They (Las Vegas developers) are looking at putting in an entire town center around that lake with all of the bells and whistles of Vegas," Gilman said. "And we are not going to do that in the (industrial) park. The park is rail and heavy industry. But you are going to see a town center that will be the emerald in the middle of the park."