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Fort Bend County Judge makes pitch to Elon Musk, Tesla to set up shop in county

HOUSTON – State and local leaders made a pitch to bring Tesla to Texas Monday, after the company’s CEO Elon Musk threatened to move headquarters from California to Texas or Nevada, in protest of the stay-home orders that have kept the carmaker’s factory shuttered.

“We believe we are strongly located, ideally located,” said Fort Bend County Judge KP George.

Fort Bend was one of at least two counties to pitch to Musk, following a series of frustrated tweets by him over the weekend.

“Frankly, this is the final straw,” Musk wrote. "Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately,” the tweet continued.

Musk has argued his case against California’s approach to combatting the coronavirus in recent weeks, particularly restrictions on businesses deemed non-essential during the shutdown.

“Tesla is filing a lawsuit against Alameda County immediately. The unelected & ignorant ‘Interim Health Officer’ of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense!” Musk wrote.

Hidalgo County in Texas also pitched the idea of Tesla setting up shop to Musk. Monday afternoon, Musk restarted production in California.

“Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules. I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me,” Musk wrote.

Images of the plant’s parking lot Monday showed a full parking lot.

Monday’s apparent reopening didn’t stop officials in the Lone Star State from trying to make their case.

“Elon Musk could save billions in taxes if Tesla moves its headquarters to Nevada or Texas. Just saying,” wrote Gov. Greg Abbott on Twitter, sharing a CNBC article.

Fort Bend Judge: ‘We are thriving’

George’s letter to Elon Musk describes a Fort Bend County that is on the move.

“...we have now become the most diverse community in the United States,” George wrote.

Fort Bend County Judge KP George sent a letter to Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, to bring operations to Fort Bend County.
Fort Bend County Judge KP George sent a letter to Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, to bring operations to Fort Bend County. (KPRC)

George said he figured it was best to strike while the iron was hot.

“I just want to make sure we are offered the opportunity and I believe it will be a beneficial opportunity for all of us,” George told KPRC 2 Monday.

George added that access to multiple railroad lines, expansive highway space, and lots of available land are among Fort Bend County’s assets that Tesla might benefit from.

“We will follow up with them and you know again absolutely we don’t know and we’re very confident we can follow up with him,” George said.

George acknowledged Musk’s disagreement with parts of a stay-at-home order. George issued one of his own for Fort Bend County businesses and residents in March.

“Of course, I issued a stay at home order too in Fort Bend County,” George said.

George told KPRC 2 some big companies in Fort Bend County were able to operate at a lower capacity under the county’s order, adding compromise is key in luring and maintaining industry.

“Safety is number one but at the same time if a company is willing to work within that perimeter we are always open to that kind of idea. We’re willing to work with them,” George said.

“I cannot change what [Musk] thinks or how he thinks. See, we look at how we can bring businesses here because that changes our county’s future,” George continued.

Tesla to Texas: is Musk serious?

The answer to that question depends on who you ask. Of course, Musk would be taxed at a lower rate, which, according to CNBC, could save the billionaire additional billions by moving to Nevada or Texas.

“Texas is, of course, an attractive business climate, relative to California,” said Dr. Steven Craig, an economist and professor at the University of Houston.

Craig said while Texas does seem more financially attractive, he was unsure if Musk’s tweets sincerely reflected his motives.

Big companies often push around their weight to get what they want. Musk wants to reopen his factory.

“The only way you can get around that sort of treatment is to threaten to go,” Craig said.

Still, Craig said local municipalities should pitch Musk, no matter if the company’s days in California truly are numbered.

“I think Texas officials should take it seriously and see what they can do but these sales pitches are difficult and the probabilities are low,” Craig said, before continuing, “you gotta — you can make 100 shots and you only have a 5% chance you’re still going to get five of them and that would be great.”