Entertainment

Will Downey become home to cars of the future?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The city of Downey helped put a man on the moon. Now, can it become home to a car of the future? The Downey City Council approved an agreement on Wednesday designed to entice Tesla Motors to build its next electric car at Downey Studios, the former site of a NASA plant.

The vote was unanimous. The Downey Council approved a memorandum of understanding that opens the door for Tesla Motor Company to start building cars in their city.

"In a time where our nation, our cities are having problems with unemployment rising left and right, the city of Downey is taking the forefront and making sure that we can do something for not only our residents but the residents in the surrounding communities around us by creating the possibility of 5,600 jobs," said David Gafin, Downey City Council.

Tesla has been looking for a plant to build its newly conceived all-electric Model S sedan. It would sell for $57,000 and run up to 300 miles on a charge. The factory that Downey is offering has a cutting edge reputation of its own. Apollo moon capsules and service modules were manufactured there and later major segments of the space shuttle. Downey officials have worked to replace the aerospace jobs that fled the city in the early 90s and with Tesla, they think they have succeeded.

"Very very important for Tesla to continue the legacy of high-tech aerospace jobs but more importantly, green jobs and that's what we're trying to create here in Downey," said Downey Mayor Mario Guerra.

A movie studio now occupies most of the 5100 acres Tesla will need. The city is picking up nearly $2 million for roof repairs and for giving rent on 20 acres that it owns. If Tesla completes the deal, it would be southern California's first auto manufacturing plant since Chevy left Van Nuys in 1992.

"I'd like it because, it's going to make new jobs here," said a Downey resident.

Portions of the historic aerospace plant have already been converted to other uses. Kaiser built a state of the art hospital. The city developed a park and developers added a large shopping mall. But it is the manufacturing jobs that Downey really wants and it hopes Tesla will provide them.

"We'll get a real live battery operated machine that you can get into and go for a couple of miles. It's a great time in our lives," said Downey resident Chuck Anna."

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