The idea is certainly eye-catching and extremely heavily qualified: Tesla might be looking at land in southern Dallas for a new $5 billion battery factory. Would that be huge? Indeed, it would. Tons of jobs, and likely a ton of ancillary development would come along with it, too, because workers need places to eat and live and so on. Good times. Yes, sir. But, OK, hold on, where did this information come from?
Michael Morris, director of transportation for the Regional Transportation Council, said an unidentified site in southern Dallas “may be placed under consideration” for the factory and that additional transportation improvements are needed in the area.
Call me “justifiably skeptical.”
This comes from a letter to Rick Loessberg, Dallas County director of planning and development, wherein Morris says “nearly $200 million is available for transportation improvements in southern Dallas.”
As DMN writer Terry Box notes, four states are competing for the factory, along with the state where Tesla is HQ’d, California. Not cities. States. In Texas alone, San Antonio has also thrown its hat in the ring, and I doubt it’s the only other city. Everyone wants something that can immediately create 6,500 jobs. Dallas certainly wouldn’t be a bad choice. Southern Dallas has a lot of available land, and, on the city’s end, this would be a big step for the Grow South initiative.
But let’s look at what information there is in Morris’ letter. An unidentified site. “May be placed under consideration.” So, essentially, anywhere in southern Dallas. Maybe. Who knows? Sure. Why not? But, hey, one thing we know for sure: if that factory was to move here, we would definitely need a couple hundred million in transportation improvements. So let’s get going on that right now. Just in case.
The Jim Schutze part of me — mostly the graying beard — looks at the available information (which is to say, a bunch of shrugs and upturned palms put into human language) and wonders: is this how we begin to get backdoored into the Trinity tollroad or repairing 345 or whatever? That money for transportation improvements is approved, the heavily qualified idea of a $5 billion factory on an unidentified site never, big shock, materializes, and there we are, locked in.
I called Loessberg just now — nice guy, by the way, probably knows how to work a grill in the summer — and he told me that, “In general, the consensus on the land we are talking about is the Inland Port area,” adding that no one knows what that means. He said it’s south of I-20, between 35 and 45. North of the new Loop 9, too. He also said that the story I saw was “intentionally vague” — you don’t reveal everything when you’re competing with other cities for a $5 billion factory.
I get that, definitely. I’m a terrible negotiator and I probably couldn’t nail down a $5,000 deal, much less a $5 billion one. Let’s be honest — I’d have trouble with $500. I have had trouble with $500. So, I’m probably wrong. Based on what Loessberg told me, the nearly $200 million available for transportation improvements is not directly tied to any of the much-debated transportation projects Morris is currently involved in.
What I’m saying here is this: it’s not tied to any of those much-debated transportation projects right now. All these things tend to get tied together at some point, because all the highways are connected. Big road projects tend to morph until they are unrecognizable in form, function, and finance from their original incarnations. I don’t doubt Loessberg. I’m just saying: keep paying attention.