- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 14, 2014

DALLAS (AP) - After bagging Toyota’s North American headquarters and being picked as one of four states competing for a $5 billion Tesla “gigafactory,” Texas boosters are asserting the Lone Star State’s emergence as a major player in the American auto industry.

Even before Toyota’s bombshell announcement April 28 that it was moving its corporate nerve center from California to the Dallas suburb of Plano, the second-largest state already ranked No. 6 for automotive manufacturing employment, with 476 automotive manufacturing firms employing 33,800-plus workers, according to a 2013 state report.

At the 60-year-old General Motors plant in Arlington, a new SUV rolls off the assembly line every minute.

Down the Interstate-35 corridor, Toyota workers build Tundra and Tacoma pickups at a 2,000-acre site in San Antonio.

In Denton, heavy-duty trucks roll out of a Peterbilt Motors plant, the county’s largest employer. And across Texas, shops and factories make components ranging from plastic emission detectors to tires and windshield wipers.

“We are starting to reach the point where Texas is a center for the automotive industry,” economist Ray Perryman, president of the Perryman Group in Waco, told the Fort Worth Business Press (http://bit.ly/QJuHbK ).

The Toyota coup, which has been hailed as one of the most significant corporate relocations in years, was a major victory for Gov. Rick Perry and could bolster his prospects for a second presidential run in 2016.

A $40 million incentive from the governor’s Texas Enterprise Fund helped convince the world’s largest auto dealer to move its headquarters from Torrance, California, to Plano.

Perry also is at the center of efforts to convince electric car maker Tesla to make Texas the home for a battery factory expected to employ about 6,500. “The cachet of being able to say we put that manufacturing facility in our state is one that’s hard to pass up,” Perry recently told a Fox Business interviewer, pledging a “major effort” from Texas to land the factory.

The California-based car manufacturer, co-founded by Elon Musk, announced Texas, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico as the four competitors for the plant, which Tesla officials have dubbed “the gigafactory.”

Reno, Nevada, is thought to be the front-runner but San Antonio officials are also making a strong push with an incentive package valued at $800 million, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Tesla hopes to announce the site within the next two to three months after winnowing the field to two semifinalists. The company plans to complete the 10-million-square-foot factory by 2017.

“It’s the most significant economic development project in decades,” said John Boyd, president of the Boyd Company Inc. of Princeton, N.J., a site selection firm. “It’s not only huge, it’s cutting edge,” he added, citing “new technologies” expected to emerge from the project.

Boyd called Toyota’s move “the biggest headquarters coup for the Metroplex” since American Airlines moved to Fort Worth from New York City in 1979.

The move, he said, will have a “tremendous impact” on the Metroplex economy by importing more than 4,000 highly paid corporate workers who will become new customers for services throughout the area.

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