In high gear

Tesla revs up opening of massive new Austin factory with 15,000-person party

Tesla revs up opening of massive Austin factory with party for 15,000

Tesla factory
An April 7 grand opening party will celebrate the new $1.1 billion plant. Courtesy of Tesla

Get ready for a big shindig at Tesla’s new Gigafactory Texas vehicle manufacturing plant in eastern Travis County.

To celebrate the grand opening of the factory, Austin-based Tesla is throwing an enormous party there on April 7 from 4-11:30 pm. The invitation-only gathering is expected to draw 15,000 visitors who’ll partake of tours, speeches, food, and entertainment. A fireworks show might be part of the festivities.

Multibillionaire Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has vowed the event will be the largest barbecue in the history of Texas.

On March 22, Travis County commissioners approved a permit for the April 7 party at the factory, which remains under construction. The $1.1 billion plant, at 12733 Tesla Rd., will produce several electric vehicles; it also houses Tesla’s corporate headquarters, which until last year had been in Northern California.

Although the factory initially was billed as encompassing 4.3 million square feet, a presentation made to the county commissioners indicates the plant will measure 8 million square feet. Musk has said the factory will eventually employ more than 10,000 people.

While none of the commissioners voted against Telsa’s mass-gathering permit, one community activist did express opposition.

Paul DiFiore, an environmental advocate with the local Colorado River Conservancy and East Austin’s People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources (PODER), complained that Tesla hadn’t done enough to be a good neighbor in eastern Travis County.

“This grand opening is not a substitute for real community engagement," DiFiore told the commissioners. "So I urge you to consider rejecting this permit and forcing Tesla to delay their celebration until they start treating the community of eastern Travis County as more than a workforce for Elon Musk but, rather, as neighbors and partners.” 

Brigid Shea, a Travis County commissioner whose territory includes the Tesla factory, sympathized with DiFiore.

“I do think that there is a need for more community outreach and communication," Shea said. "I think that you [Tesla] have lots of opportunities to meet more with the community and really form a powerful relationship."

Despite that comment, Shea said she wasn’t willing to turn down Tesla’s request to host a long-planned gathering.

The same day as the commissioners’ vote, Tesla staged a grand opening of its new $5.5 billion factory near Berlin. The plant is expected to produce 500,000 vehicles a year.

“Musk was seen dancing as he presided over the delivery of Tesla’s first German-made cars to 30 clients and their families at the carmaker’s … plant,” CNBC reported.