According to a recent report, New York state officials are considering selling equipment worth $50 million that the state purchased for use at the Tesla solar panel factory in Buffalo. The equipment has remained in storage instead of being put to use to create jobs in the area.
The Buffalo News reports in a recent article that New York state officials are considering selling $50 million in equipment purchased for use at the Tesla solar panel factory in Buffalo. Instead of being used to generate jobs and revenues for the company, the equipment that is being stored in a warehouse unused by Tesla. Multiple Tesla employees have claimed that there is very little production work done at the Buffalo facility.
The Buffalo News writes:
State officials confirmed reports by former Tesla employees that equipment that the state purchased to make solar panels at the Buffalo plant has been moved out of the facility to a former Bell Aerospace building in Wheatfield.
Tesla doesn’t need the equipment, which was purchased years ago, as it begins to ramp up production of the solar roof that is expected to be the primary solar energy product at the RiverBend factory.
Officials from Empire State Development said the state is considering its options for the state-owned equipment. They said the equipment isn’t technologically obsolete.
The Buffalo News also received a statement from Empire State Development, which said: “We are seeking alternative uses for the equipment, including making it available to other high-tech businesses that are considering a move or expansion in New York, or selling to interested bidders.”
Breitbart News reported in November of 2019 that New York state officials had written down more than $1 billion in economic development investments in various tech projects across upstate New York, including Tesla’s Buffalo solar-panel production factory. The Buffalo plant was first announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) in 2013 as part of efforts to improve state economy with manufacturing facilities developed by the State University of New York’s Polytechnic Institute.
New York state spent $959 million to build and equip the Buffalo factory. The factory, along with other factories in Syracuse and Plattsburgh, is owned by the Fort Schuyler Management Corp. which is a nonprofit group led by officials from SUNY Poly and other state agencies.
According to financial statements posted on the Fort Schuyler website, the firm wrote down the value of Tesla’s Buffalo factory by $884 million and other high-tech projects by $311 million. In the documents, auditors wrote that after re-evaluating the terms of the facilities leases, they determined that the corporation “will not likely receive the direct financial benefits associated with ownership of the manufacturing facility and equipment.”
Fort Schuyler’s financial statements that cover the fiscal year which ended on June 30 2018, valued the group’s land, real estate, and equipment at around $94.8 million, down from $1.2 billion in 2017. State officials said that the write-downs were an accounting charge but many believe that the facilities have provided very little value to the taxpayers whose money built them.
E.J. McMahon, the research director of the fiscally conservative think-tank Empire Center for Public Policy, stated: “This is black and white evidence that they wasted $1.2 billion of taxpayer money.”
Many have been critical of New York’s investment in the Tesla factory, even Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has criticized the investment and Elon Musk. Breitbart News reported in December of 2018:
Speaking at a climate change town hall organized by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont recently, Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized Elon Musk’s electric car manufacturer Tesla over the company’s use of taxpayer funds. “When we as a public choose to invest in new technologies, we deserve a return on that investment,” Ocasio-Cortez said when discussing government investments in green energy.
Ocasio-Cortez further stated: “For far too long, we gave money to Tesla, we gave money to a ton of people and we got no return on our investment that the public made in creating technologies, and it’s about time we get our due because it’s the public that funded and financed a lot of innovative technologies.”
Tesla’s New York facility has faced a number of recent setbacks, Breitbart News reported in February that Panasonic has announced that it plans to exit its solar cell production at Tesla’s Buffalo Gigafactory, the latest sign of strain in the relationship between the two firms as Panasonic’s status as Tesla’s exclusive battery supplier is ending.
Tesla has reportedly informed New York that Panasonic’s withdrawal “has no bearing on Tesla’s current operations”, alleging that the company employs 1,500 people in the city of Buffalo. The company had committed to employe 1,460 people in the city and cleared that figure in April avoiding a $41 million penalty. The employee numbers reported at that time included Panasonic’s employees at the facility. Panasonic said in a statement that it would cease production at the Gigafactory by the end of May and exit the factory entirely be the end of September.