AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texas’ largest manufacturer is poised to get even bigger.
Tesla plans to pour $717 million into constructing 1.4 million additional square feet of space at its Austin gigafactory. The plans call for four new buildings to be built and finished out at 1 Tesla Road, starting at the end of this month.
That’s all according to plans filed with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation Jan. 9 and obtained by KXAN’s media partners at the Austin Business Journal.
Bryce Bencivengo with the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce said less than a year after the gigafactory has opened, the car maker has already diversified the local economy.
“We obviously are still a tech city and the most jobs that we added in Austin were in tech, but just behind that, our second largest growing sector in our economy was in automotive manufacturing,” he said.
Bencivengo said that growth not only includes Tesla, but other companies that supply parts for the company.
He said another expansion could also drive up employment numbers.
“We think there’ll be a great opportunity for them to get… additional high paying jobs in the region,” Bencivengo said.
The company had said its current facility would need 10,000 workers and has teamed up with Del Valle ISD and Austin Community College for training and hiring.
“We can move very fast as a team and we can grow,” a Tesla spokesperson said at an ACC event showcasing their Tesla START program in 2021.
The 14-week training program prepares technicians for the new gigafactory.
Laura Marmolejo, associate dean for ACC’s advanced manufacturing, has been involved with Tesla START since it began.
“Over the last year and a half, we’ve had over 3,000 inquiries,” she said.
Marmolejo greeted news of a possible expansion of the Giga Texas.
“It’s exciting, because that means there’s more opportunities for people in Central Texas to get employed,” she said.
She said Tesla selects students for ACC’s Tesla START program and ACC trains them.
ACC also trains students Tesla chooses from Del Valle ISD to be future workers, she said.
“That’s one of the programs that takes high school graduates directly into employment and they start with a seven week training with us. And then they go into work after that,” Marmolejo explained.
Dirt could turn on four new buildings could begin this month but there are still lingering issues from the original gigafactory’s construction.
In November, dozens of people who built the gigafactory said Tesla’s contractors and subcontractors didn’t follow safety protocols and still owed workers money.
“Regardless of who is the contractor, who was the subcontractor… Power rests on the developer, in this instance Tesla, to pledge to higher standards,” said Juan Benitez of the Workers Defense Project, the group that filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Labor on behalf of workers.
Tesla is the second major employer in Austin this week to indicate that now is the time to build for the years to come, despite the uncertainty on the horizon in the coming year.
According to the ABJ, Apple also filed similar paperwork to invest about a quarter of a billion dollars more in the construction of new office buildings on the north side.
On the other hand, tech giants, such as Amazon and Facebook, have indicated that they’ll cut local jobs in the foreseeable future.