Robstown possible site for Tesla factory

A Tesla Model S parked outside the Gigafactory in Austin. The electric automaker plans to locate a refining plant near Robstown. Courtesy picture

Robstown could be the site of a new Tesla factory. The electric car and clean energy company filed an application with the Texas Comptroller’s Office seeking tax relief from the Robstown Independent School District in the process of choosing a location for a hydroxide refining plant. of battery-grade lithium.

The company is investigating possible sites in Texas and Louisiana.

According to a Tesla press release, the plant would be “the first of its kind in North America.” Lithium hydroxide is a key raw material in the production of battery cathodes.

Tesla was founded in California in 2003. Billionaire businessman Elon Musk is the company’s CEO and largest shareholder. In recent years, it has expanded its presence in Texas, opening a Tesla car factory in Austin, then moving its headquarters to the state capital in December 2021. The Boring Company, a tunnel construction company founded by Musk, moved its offices to Pflugerville in 2022. In 2014, Musk’s SpaceX opened its Starbase facility in Boca Chica, near Brownsville.

The proposed battery plant would process raw ore and be “designed to consume fewer hazardous reagents and create usable by-products compared to the conventional process,” according to the press release.

Tesla expects the plant to employ more than 160 workers. The Coastal Bend site under consideration is south of Robstown on US 77 and County Road 28. The company offered no timeline for selecting a location, but said construction could begin as soon as by the end of 2022 and operations by the end of 2024.

According to state law, the Office of the Comptroller must grant final approval to a school district requesting a tax abatement. The absence of tax breaks from the district would make a Texas location “less attractive,” according to Tesla’s application.

Texas Tax Code Chapter 313, which allows school districts to limit taxes for potential generators of economic development, will expire at the end of 2022. With the expiration date approaching, the Office of the Comptroller has received a flurry of requests.

Passed by the Texas Legislature in 2001 and taking effect in 2002, Chapter 313 of the Texas Economic Development Act allows a taxing entity to grant the applicant company a lower appraised value for 10 years, after which this value would return to its normal level. The legislature, in its last session, did not extend the law when the Texas Senate declined to act on the measure.

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