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Travis County commissioners to consider $14.7 million economic incentives deal for $1 billion Tesla factory
Travis County commissioners will hear from county staff, Tesla representatives and residents on Tuesday about whether they should approve an economic incentive deal that would save the electric carmaker $14.7 million in property taxes over 10 years and generate 5,000 jobs.
Tesla has proposed a $1 billion "Gigafactory" to be built on a 2,100-acre site in Southeast Travis County. Founder Elon Musk tweeted Thursday that the company has an option to purchase the site from its current owner, construction supplier Martin Marietta, but has not yet done so.
Staff will give a presentation—which was made public earlier today—to commissioners on the proposed agreement. Tesla representatives will also present to the court.
If approved, the factory would employ 5,000 middle-skill workers with an average annual salary of $47,147 and "full benefits," including health insurance and paid parental leave, according to the staff presentation.
These middle-skill jobs are particularly needed in Travis County, where most job creation, pre-pandemic, served highly educated workers who moved to Austin from other places—and not low- and middle-skill residents looking for work.
In addition to job creation, staff estimates the new factory will generate more than $600 million in sales activity annually and spur new jobs, firms and economic activity "from the ripple effects of Tesla," per the presentation.
In exchange, commissioners would approve a deal that would see Tesla rebated 80% of its property taxes to the county for a period of 10 years.
The total property tax that Tesla would pay Travis County is estimated to be $21.7 million over 10 years, of which $14.7 million would be returned if the company passes an annual compliance review conducted by a third party.
This equation "results in a substantial benefit to the community and a net fiscal benefit to the County," staff wrote.
Travis County hired Jon Hockenyos, president of the local economic analysis firm TXP, to conduct a financial impact analysis on the proposed deal.
In his review, Hockenyos concluded: "There is a highly competitive global environment for projects of this scale and scope that typically requires incentives from state and local governments to secure relocation," he wrote.
Travis County Public Information Officer Hector Nieto said commissioners do not intend to take any action on the proposed agreement on Tuesday.
Earlier this week, union representatives called into a Commissioners Court meeting to raise concerns about Tesla's "troubled history with taxpayer subsidies."
In addition to applying for incentives through Travis County, the company is seeking nearly $70 million in subsidies from Del Valle ISD over the same 10-year period.
The proposed factory site is also within Austin's taxing jurisdiction, but the company reportedly will not be seeking economic incentives from the city.
In an email to Austonia, a spokesperson said that the city does not comment on economic development prospects.
"However, we are not surprised that an innovative technology company like Tesla is interested in opening a facility in Austin," he wrote. "Austinites win when our area features many major employers offering stable, mid-level, and strong paying jobs – as well as procurement opportunities for local businesses."
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Summertime sure does fly by, doesn't it? It's time to jam-pack as many summer activities as you can while there is still about a month left before school starts up again and the grind gets going. Luckily, Austin is full of places to visit that will fill your season full of memories.
To get you started, check out some of these seasonably-fit museums, galleries and snacks.
Beyond Van Gogh, 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd.
Like the name suggests, Beyond Van Gogh Austin takes visitors deeper into the Dutch painter's work by surrounding them in his post-impressionist world. Aptly taking place at the Starry Night Pavilion at the Circuit of the Americas, this immersive exhibit allows Vincent Van Gogh's masterpieces to be "freed from frames" as they are projected onto the walls and floors for guests to explore. Van Gogh's thoughts, dreams and words are set to a symphonic score to drive the narrative as you walk through the rooms, giving visitors insight into the tortured artist's swirly world. Adult tickets start at $46.99, children at $28.99 and it offers student and military discounts while the museum runs through Sept. 5.
Museum of Ice Cream, 11506 Century Oaks Terrace
The runaway hit from New York City has made its way to Austin, complete with a rainbow sprinkle pool, banana forest and bright-pink-everything exterior. The Museum of Ice Cream is a favorite of major celebrities—Beyoncé, Ryan Reynolds and the Kardashian Krew have all been spotted at the New York Location. The whimsical museum promises an undisclosed "Texas twist" at its new Austin location, which also has an on-brand café that serves Museum of Ice Cream original treats. You didn't think you'd leave without ice cream, did you? Tickets run $39 per person.
The Selfie Galleries, 3220 Amy Donovan Plaza
Looking for a place to get that perfect summer selfie? Look no further, because the newly-opened Selfie Galleries has 20 wildly decorated different rooms to roam through, capturing an unforgettable photo of yourself and your faves in each one. The backdrops were made so you can flex your creative muscle and make some documented memories at the same time. The gallery also hosts mixers for all age groups so you can meet local Austinites in a safe setting. Tickets start at $20 for an hour, $40 for two, depending on how many people you bring along.
Wonderspaces, 1205 Sheldon Cove
The self-proclaimed "new home for extraordinary art," Wonderspaces is an interactive art gallery like you've never experienced before. With rotating exhibits that you can touch, Instagram and ogle, the artwork is designed for everyone to create their own unique experience when visiting. Virtual reality, a house of mirrors, anonymous conversations and a dragon made of teabags are just a few of the wild installations that make this museum what it is—plus, you can enjoy some local brews at the Wonderspaces Bar. Adults can visit for $24, kids for $15 or you can get an annual pass for $99 and visit each new piece.
Milk Bar Bakery, delivery only
Maybe you want an experience without the outing. Thanks to ghost kitchens, the brainchild of Christina Tosi came all the way from The Big Apple to the Lone Star State. The well-celebrated Milk Bar Bakery is now available in Austin through third-party delivery only, meaning you can get the full line of milk bar cookies, bar pie, truffle crumb cakes and its famous layered birthday cakes through UberEats, GrubHub, DoorDash and Postmates only. If you haven't had these rich cookies yet, it's time to fire up that delivery app and get to ordering!
Soak up the rest of summer while you can!
- 1 1/12 oz sweet pepper-infused Tito's Handmade Vodka
- 3 oz soda water
- 1 oz grapefruit juice
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- 1/4 oz simple syrup
The Biden administration is asking cities and states to use pandemic relief funds to pay residents $100 to get vaccinated. Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reaffirmed prohibitions on pandemic protocols in a new executive order issued on Thursday.
The order emphasizes that "the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates," according to a press release. It outlaws government entities from requiring employees to be vaccinated or individuals to provide proof of vaccination and upholds previous orders restricting government entities' ability to impose pandemic protocols.
Local public health and elected officials have asked all Austinites to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, and unvaccinated individuals to avoid nonessential trips last week given the rising number of local confirmed cases and related hospitalizations in recent weeks. But it is not enforceable under Abbott's order.
The seven-day moving average of new hospital admissions in the five-county Austin metro has more than quintupled since the beginning of July and is now 47.4. The threshold for Stage 5 is 50, according to Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines.
Despite these trends, Abbott stands firm in his commitment to avoid new statewide mandates and to prohibit local government entities from issuing any of their own.
"Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19," he said in a statement. "They have the individual right and responsibility to decide for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses and engage in leisure activities."
Public health officials have attributed the current spike to the more contagious Delta variant and unmitigated spread among unvaccinated individuals. Abbott encouraged Texans to get vaccinated if they haven't already but affirmed that it would never be required by the state in his statement.
An increasing number of Austin-area employers—including Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health, Facebook and the Department of Veterans Affairs—have announced new vaccine requirements in recent days. Austin Mayor Steve Adler asked the city manager to enact a similar requirement on Wednesday, but the city is unable to do so due to an executive order issued by Abbott in April.
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