Tesla reports job numbers to state, adding new products for Buffalo

Local News

Tesla informed the state Wednesday that it exceeded all its job and spending milestones it had agreed to as part of the governor’s Buffalo Billion program. 

In addition, the company officially announced that it will begin manufacturing and assembling new products in Buffalo, which was first reported by News 4 Investigates back in February

Tesla said it was required to hire 500 people statewide by April 30. 

Tesla’s letter Wednesday states that it has 632 full-time and four part-time employees statewide, surpassing what it says its job requirement is by more than 25 percent.

In addition, Tesla said it spent and invested more than $381 million in New York since opening in 2017, nearly tripling its commitment. 

Tesla and Panasonic share the Riverbend facility, which was built and equipped with $750 million in taxpayer funds. Panasonic manufactures solar modules at the plant.

Tesla reported that 730 workers are employed at the Buffalo plant: 329 by Tesla and 401 by Panasonic. Tesla did not specify where the other workers are employed in the state.

“We’re pleased to have exceeded our first year job commitments by more than 25 percent and nearly tripled our investment requirement in New York State,” a Tesla spokeswoman said in a prepared statement.

Last fall, before Tesla invited the media to the facility for the first time, the company had reported 800 people worked there, an even split between Panasonic and Tesla. In January, Tesla announced a global reduction in workforce, and a representative said about 50 employees at the Buffalo factory were let go.

The job targets are important; if Tesla misses any them, the state can claw back $41.2 million each year the targets are missed.

Tesla faces a big challenge ahead, as the job targets for April 2020 more than double to 1,460 employees.

The production of its Solar Roof has been sluggish, which has led to questions of whether Tesla can meet its upcoming job target.

The Solar Roof is meant to resemble a traditional roof, but instead of shingles, the materials are solar cells and modules that can produce electricity. Tesla has said it continues to test the Solar Roof to ensure that it will be as durable as traditional shingle roofs before it ramps up production.

As a result, the company said it is expanding its product line at the Buffalo plant.

Tesla will also be manufacturing and assembling a Supercharger for its electric cars and energy storage components. News 4 Investigates in February interviewed former employees who said the company had plans to manufacture new products at the Buffalo plant. 

“Tesla is committed to expanding our business throughout the State of New York and continuing to turn the Riverbend facility in Buffalo into a world-class advanced manufacturing center,” said Jonathan Chang, the assistant secretary of Silevo LLC, a subsidiary of Tesla.

State officials said they will do their due diligence in checking the data supplied to them by Tesla. In addition, News 4 Investigates reported earlier this month that the state comptroller is auditing the state’s high-tech programs, with a focus on the Tesla Riverbend project.

“Empire State Development is in receipt of Tesla’s Employment and Investment Report for RiverBend,” said a spokeswoman for Empire State Development, the state’s economic development agency.

“We are pleased that Tesla is reporting that it has exceeded its job and investment commitments, invested $381 million over the course of the project, and become host to nearly 800 full-time employees working at the manufacturing facility. In the coming weeks, ESD will perform the necessary due diligence to verify the data provided by Tesla.”

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