As expected, Tesla Motors announced yesterday afternoon that it would build its first battery gigafactory outside Reno, Nevada.
The electric-car maker released platitudinous statements from CEO Elon Musk, Nevada governor Brian Sandoval, and state Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick. Much of the business press treated it purely as an economic development story.
But the Reno Gazette-Journal offered a slightly different angle, one you might call "human interest," or the intersection of zero-emission green transport with another specialized local industry.
It turns out that Lance Gilman, the owner of the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center where Tesla will build its lithium-ion cell fabrication and battery assembly plant, is also the owner of the fabled Mustang Ranch brothel east of Reno.
Recent earthmoving at USA Parkway Business Park, Reno--for Tesla gigafactory? [photo: Bob Tregilus]
Located next to both Interstate Highway and rail corridors, Gilman's industrial center is billed as the largest such facility in the world. It's just outside the Reno-Sparks jurisdiction, in formerly rural Storey County.
Now major corporations--Wal-Mart, Dell Computers, and Toys R Us among them--have facilities at the industrial center.
And as owner, Gilman was "an integral part of the negotiations" to bring Tesla to the site, along with the state politicians offering still-evolving packages of incentives and support.
Slide showing Tesla Motors gigafactory statistics, from Feb 2014 presentation
Tesla has said it expects a gigafactory location to provide $500 million, or 10 percent of the plant's total $5 billion projected cost--though a Nevada economic development official mentioned its cost at as much as $10 billion.
According to trade journal Automotive News (subscription required), Nevada governor Sandoval will ask the legislature for a package of incentives that could total as much as $1.3 billion.
While those negotiations continue, it appears construction on the plant will now begin--although Tesla has said it will prepare at least one more site in case the negotiations cannot be completed satisfactorily.
Project Tiger site at USA Parkway Business Park, Reno--for Tesla gigafactory? [photo: Bob Tregilus]
Site owner Gilman's brothel sideline started with the Wild Horse Canyon Ranch, according to the Gazette-Journal, and he added the Mustang Ranch in 2007 after its owner fled to Brazil to avoid Federal tax-evasion charges.
And in the small, bare-knuckles world of Nevada state and local politics, Gilman appears to be both a big player and a big target.
Tesla Motors has always been more colorful than other car companies, with a charismatic CEO who also builds space rockets, cross-county road trips by electric car, and vehicle unveilings that blend aspects of rock concert and religious revival meeting.
With that as background, a brothel owner as a landlord is likely just a cost of doing business.
[hat tip: Brian Henderson]