Tesla deal to bring changes to rural Central Texas

The property where Tesla will build its automaking gigafactory, along Harold Green Rd and SH130, is currently considered an industrial brownfield. Tesla executives have promised to develop several sections into public greenspace.

Elon Musk has said it will be an “Ecological Paradise.” If that happens it would complement Barkley Meadows Park a few miles to the south.

"So we expect that area to be cleaned up initially,” said Travis County Commissioner Jeffery Travillion, Sr.


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Travillion expects Tesla will work with the county development and natural resources departments. The transformation that’s expected along the SH130 corridor will be balanced with a green touch, according to Travillion.

"When you look at what’s been done in acquisitions of park property from Pflugerville all the way to Manor, from Manor all the way to Austin, we have tried to make sure we create green spaces, we create walkable places, that we use bicycle opportunities as well, we want to see that area that’s now, a 1,000 acres of Walter E. Long Park have the barbed wire taken away and create opportunities for people who live here to use that property,” said Travillion.

The area around the site is next to the Colorado River which is dotted with wetlands and floodplains. Designers and construction managers will have to be mindful of that because work will be done under regulations set by the city of Austin. Mayor Steve Adler, Wednesday night, noted Tesla is inside Austin’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

“Not a done deal yet, at the city level, still have to work through the approvals in the city of Austin which will hopefully get here as soon as tesla brings their permits and plans to the city, still some labor issues that we need to clarify,” said Mayor Adler.

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Labor relations is a thorny issue between Tesla and unions. In a statement sent by the Workers Defense Action Fund executive director Emily Timm said:

"We support bringing new jobs to our community, but we need a guarantee that they will be good, safe jobs. As it stands, there is no way to verify that tesla will implement any of the agreed-upon safety and wage standards because the agreement doesn't provide for independent, third-party monitoring or enforcement measures."

The jobs, up to 5,000, could fill a growing gap between high paying tech jobs and low paying service jobs.

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"So to have a clean manufacturer coming in with middle-skill jobs that are going to pay a living wage, thousands of them, and locate in the eastern crescent, so we can start creating even more economic engines on that part of town in those communities, this is in so many ways the kind of thing we were hoping would find its way to our city,” said Adler.

Commissioner Travillion also predicts a basic change of life- an economic domino effect. "We think it will bring in grocery capacity, we think that it will assist with public transportation,” said Travillion.

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The commissioner said improvements would include new roads, like better access in and out of the Austin’s Colony neighborhood. "It is significant investment in the most challenged part of town,” said Traviliion.