Would it be easier to run Twitter or build and oversee a company town? Elon Musk is exploring constructing a town in Texas for employees of his multiple firms:
In meetings with landowners and real-estate agents, Mr. Musk and employees of his companies have described his vision as a sort of Texas utopia along the Colorado River, where his employees could live and work.
Executives at the Boring Co., Mr. Musk’s tunnel operation, have discussed and researched incorporating the town in Bastrop County, about 35 miles from Austin, which would allow Mr. Musk to set some regulations in his own municipality and expedite his plans, according to people familiar with Mr. Musk’s projects.
They say Mr. Musk and his top executives want his Austin-area employees, including workers at Boring, electric-car maker Tesla Inc. and space and exploration company SpaceX, to be able to live in new homes with below-market rents…
As of last year, Boring employees could apply for a home with rents starting at about $800 a month for a two- or three-bedroom, according to an advertisement for employees viewed by the Journal and people familiar with the plans. If an employee leaves or is fired, he or she would have to vacate the house within 30 days, those people said.
I am intrigued by the contrast between online and offline activity. I have argued before that the two realms are more linked than people think. Here, both the business activity spans these two realms as might the world of employees and visitors.
What might the fate be of this proposed community? On one hand, if the primary goal is to provide cheaper housing for employees, perhaps such a community could be really helpful. Since housing is a significant portion of household costs, providing cheaper good housing could help attract and retain employees. Another bonus is that employees are close to work and might be willing to work more hours.
On the other hand, when has a company town worked out well in the long-term? What regulations does Musk want to implement and what are the penalties for not adhering to them or disagreeing with them? Even with reduced housing prices, how will employees feel about always being tied to work?
My suspicion is that this will not work out as intended. Developing a community is no easy task and the interaction between work life and community life is hard to manage.