Sacramento is finalist for electric truck factory owner says will ‘create thousands of jobs’

The Nikola One electric semi-truck is unveiled at the Salt Lake City headquarters of Nikola Motor Company on Dec. 1, 2016.
The Nikola One electric semi-truck is unveiled at the Salt Lake City headquarters of Nikola Motor Company on Dec. 1, 2016.

Sacramento is in the running again for a major factory, an electric-truck facility that could employ thousands of workers. But it’s far from certain whether the region will be any more successful than the last time it competed for a big assembly plant.

Nikola Motor Co. of Salt Lake City, a privately held startup that just unveiled a prototype, considers the Sacramento area “a top finalist” for its assembly plant, the Greater Sacramento Economic Council announced Tuesday. The Greater Sacramento group said its chief executive, Barry Broome, traveled to Utah recently to make a 15-minute pitch to Nikola founder and Chief Executive Trevor Milton. Broome was accompanied by Sacramento County Executive Nav Gill.

Broome said Sacramento is competing against locations in Tennessee, Arizona, Utah and possibly one other state.

It’s highly unusual for a group such as Greater Sacramento, the region’s leading business recruiter, to make an announcement about a company that’s considering Sacramento but hasn’t made a decision. Broome said he made the disclosure because he’s trying to rally community leaders and state officials behind the effort to bring Nikola, and companies like it, to Sacramento.

Broome, who has been critical of the state’s business climate since relocating from Phoenix, said Nikola’s interest should spur community soul-searching about what it takes to land such a big fish.

“Unless we make real progress in policy changes. … I’m not sure we’re going to be a winner,” he said. “We feel like we’re going to need policy changes locally, and policy changes statewide.”

Among other things, he wants to see government agencies reduce red tape when big employers come calling. Those companies aren’t going to be patient about waiting for permits and other approvals.

“They’re not going to muddle through processes,” Broome said.

Nikola didn’t identify any of the communities competing with Sacramento for the factory. In a prepared statement, Milton said the startup “will build a world-class advanced manufacturing facility which will create thousands of jobs. Nikola is in discussions with several states to decide who to partner with. … The location of the Nikola Motor manufacturing facility will be determined in 2017.”

Sacramento was among finalists recently for a Silicon Valley startup’s electric-car assembly plant but the company, Lucid Motors, announced a week ago that it was choosing a site in Arizona. California officials had offered $44 million in sales tax breaks if the company had chosen California for the $700 million factory.

Despite the high-tech boom in the Bay Area, California continues to struggle against other states when big manufacturing plants are at stake. Perhaps most famously, Fremont electric-car maker Tesla Motors Inc. chose a spot outside Reno in 2014 for its 5,000-employee battery factory.

Broome said California is a hot spot for electric vehicle research and technology – and shouldn’t be losing the manufacturing jobs “to places like Nevada and Arizona.” One of the factors that has attracted Nikola to the Sacramento region is the advanced transportation research being conducted at UC Davis, he said.

Nikola, founded in 2014, is still in the developmental stage. It unveiled a prototype truck earlier this month, the Nikola One, incorporating hydrogen fuel cell technology with its electric drivetrain. The company has said it plans to build a network of hydrogen fueling stations around the United States and Canada.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler

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