Joplin has offered a $1 billion incentive package to bring to town a Tesla electric vehicle manufacturing plant that could employ up to 7,000 people.
If the bid by the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and the city of Joplin were successful, it would put a factory site that would stretch a mile by 2 miles in near west 20th Street and JJ Highway.
"Tesla is looking for a new location somewhere in the Midwest for a gigafactory," Toby Teeter, president of the chamber, said at a City Hall briefing Monday. "Approximately a week ago the city of Joplin and the Chamber of Commerce put a formal bid together and submitted it to Tesla corporate."
Gigafactory is a word Tesla founder Elon Musk made up to describe the giant size of the plant he intends to build to manufacture a new wedge-shaped electric pickup truck that is clad in stainless steel and nearly shatterproof glass.
It could be called Texas-sized because one of the places in the running is Austin, Texas. It also could be music to the ears of folks in Nashville, Tennessee, another place in contention.
Teeter's incentive package proposes 1,042 acres within the Wildwood Ranch development west of Joplin.
Wildwood Ranch developer Jimmer Pinjuv, asked to describe the size of a site like that, said there is no doubt that "it's big. A section is 640 acres, which is 1 mile by 1 mile, so this is almost two sections, which would be nearly 1 mile by 2 miles." It's not exactly that shape, Pinjuv added, but that provides a snapshot of the size. It's nearly half of all the land he owns out there.
Asked how big it would be in city blocks, Pinjuv said it would be about 12 blocks by 24 blocks.
The property pitched to Tesla offers access to BSNF rail service, is near Interstates 44 and 49 and is within minutes of the Joplin Regional Airport, Teeter said.
"We have great assets for them if they were to choose this," Pinjuv said. The location is near a Liberty Utilities electric generating plant, which in addition to the railroad line and the highways would be "imperative assets for a development of that sort."
"It's an incredible effort on Toby and the chamber's part," Pinjuv said. "I'm so impressed. It will be interesting to see if we get a response."
Mayor Gary Shaw, asked if Joplin was ready to take on a project that size, said: "I think it would be a great opportunity to get ready if we weren't. I think it just opens some doors. One of the things Toby and we, as a city, saw with our two major medical centers and the KCU medical school coming here is that we need to attract people to come to our community."
It would require up to 7,000 workers to operate a plant of that size.
"It would be using a lot of our workers, but I believe it would be a very big attraction for people to come from the rest of the state or from other areas of the country" to live and work here, Shaw said.
"I am just looking forward to a positive response from them," he said. "We'd love to have the opportunity."
Joplin's area workforce availability amounts to 193,000 people within a 20-mile radius and 279,000 within 30 miles, Teeter said. There are 150 battery engineers in the workforce here along with more than 500 licensed engineers within a 60-mile radius, Teeter said.
"We're also the trucking capital of America," he said. "That gives Tesla front-row access to its next market with four of the largest trucking companies in the nation within a 60-mile radius," Teeter said.
Details of the $1 billion offer include:
• A 1,042-acre site that would be sold at a 50% discount to Tesla.
• A 100% tax break for 12 years.
• State incentives that would include Missouri Works tax credits to provide capital as well as funding to buy equipment and assistance with workforce training. Missouri automotive manufacturing incentives, Missouri Builds, and state and local sales tax breaks are part of the package.
Tesla would save $75 million in annual payroll compared with other manufacturing engineer wages in markets like Nashville and Austin, "who we also anticipate being in play for this Midwest facility," Teeter said.
Musk's company said a Midwest site is sought to build cars for the company's East Coast market. The company has favored a Texas site, according to media reports, although the sale of electric Tesla cars is not legal in that state or in several other states.