Las Vegas Sun

November 26, 2022

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Where I Stand:

Thank you, Tesla, and thank you again, Harry Reid

The announcement last week that Tesla Motors, the electric car manufacturer from neighboring California, will build its $5 billion lithium-ion battery factory in Northern Nevada is the biggest financial news in our state since Congress passed tax-relief legislation a few years ago and saved some of Nevada’s top gaming companies from certain disaster at the outset of the Great Recession.

The tax-relief legislation saved tens of thousands of gaming jobs in the Silver State while the Tesla news will create as many as 20,000 new jobs, which, as we all know, cannot come soon enough for our recession-beleaguered state.

Since Nevada was in the running for this economic shot in the arm with states like California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, it didn’t appear likely that we would prevail. Especially given the great piles of money the competition could throw Tesla’s way that we just couldn’t.

A special session of the Legislature will deal shortly with the sweeteners needed to land this deal. About $1 billion worth of sweeteners, but if you say it fast and combine it with the $100 billion worth of economic impact to our state, it doesn’t sound like much.

By the way, lest there be any illusions, Northern Nevada will benefit directly from the many thousands of jobs and financial impact the Tesla battery plant will bring, but it will be Southern Nevadans who will bear the lion’s share of the cost.

In the end, that is OK because all of Nevada will benefit. But none of us, especially our Clark County legislators, should lose sight of what Southern Nevada needs to land the next big manufacturing fish that comes Nevada’s way. Or the game-changing medical school. Or the Tier One status for UNLV. Or enough money to do K-12 education right in our part of the state.

Get the point, legislators?

We must all do what is needed and what is right to make sure Tesla builds in Nevada. But now is your opportunity to finally do what is right and what is needed for the people who you represent, the people who make up 75 percent of the state’s population: those of us who live and work in Clark County.

But, I digress.

There are plenty of congratulations to go around for this major piece of good news. Certainly, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s leadership has to be recognized for making this happen, together with all of the economic development people who worked so very hard to bring this home.

But there is someone else who hasn’t sought, nor will he, any limelight when it comes to sharing this great news. That man is Nevada’s senior U.S. senator, Harry Reid.

While everyone else was appropriately basking in the glow of the good news during Thursday’s news conference in Carson City, Reid was presiding over the seventh annual Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas. His guest of honor, among many honored guests, was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who gave the keynote address. I would not be doing my job as editor if I didn’t report how “presidential” she sounded!

The Sun’s Kyle Roerink wrote Thursday that Sandoval asked Reid to weigh in with his friend, Elon Musk, chairman of Tesla and the man whose genius and drive have led the car manufacturer to the top of the charts on how to make a brilliant American company actually work!

I was thinking about this reference to Harry’s help and Hillary’s speaking at the energy summit in the context of landing Tesla, and it was not lost on me that these things just don’t happen in a vacuum.

I was at the Clean Energy Summit two years ago and happened to find myself in a room with former President Bill Clinton, the husband of my friend Hillary, Fred Smith of FedEx, Reid and Musk. We visited for about an hour while they waited to speak to the conference attendees.

Without divulging the specifics of that informal visit, I can say with certainty it was not lost on Musk that President Clinton and Reid were very much interested in Musk’s plans for building more manufacturing plants where they could do the most good. We weren’t talking gigafactories at the time, but it was clear that people in positions to help were clearly interested in helping an American company that was willing to help create U.S. jobs.

So, when the Senate majority leader weighs in on behalf of Nevada and its jobs, it makes sense that people listen. It is obvious that Musk listened. And Nevadans will be better for it.

By the way, the fellow who saved those many thousands of Nevada’s gaming jobs by pushing through tax legislation when the recession hit? Yep, it was the majority leader. Saving thousands of Nevada jobs and helping to create many thousands more ... it is good to have the majority leader on Nevada’s team.

He is the gift to Nevada that keeps on giving.

Brian Greenspun is owner, publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.