The largest business park in the United States is over 160 square miles

Reading through a 2019 article in Wired about new fault line research on the West Coast, I noticed this paragraph about the biggest business park in America:

Eriksen’s offices are located in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, the country’s largest business park. TRIC covers more than 160 square miles—three San Franciscos’ worth—of sculpted valleys and rocky hills. Its tenants include Google, Switch, and Tesla, along with 2,000 protected wild horses. TRIC is as sure a sign as any that the Reno area is reinventing itself, aiming to attract younger residents who come not for strippers and slot machines but for lucrative jobs and easy access to the great outdoors. Lance Gilman, the bolo-tie-wearing, larger-than-life businessman behind the development, told me that on his first tour of the land he saw a bird’s nest just sitting there on the ground, catching the light. He took it as a good omen, a sign of Reno’s impending transition from has-been gambling den in the mountains to tech-centric boomtown. (Still, this is Nevada: At one point during the planning phase, Gilman had to assume management of the nearby Mustang Ranch brothel—the first ever licensed in the state—to stop a biker gang from moving in and marring his glorious vision.)

One of Gilman’s employees, a project manager named Kris Thompson, agreed to take me on a tour of the site. We started at Tesla’s Gigafactory, which the company claims will be the largest building on the planet when completed. (“It put us on the world stage overnight,” Gilman told me.) Although still under construction, the Gigafactory was already so colossal that I could not make out its scale against the mountains beyond. As we drove on, Thompson directed my attention to the huge stone pads on which TRIC’s industrial structures are being erected. “We do not cut corners,” he said. “These pads have no subsidence. We have granite-basalt bedrock. For tech companies, that’s great.” (Eriksen seems to agree with this assessment: He and his colleagues have done nothing further to insulate their offices against quakes.) “The lack of a seismic threat in this area is one of our strengths,” Thompson continued.

But, of course, there is a seismic threat. According to Faulds, it’s about the same as what I already live with in California. The San Andreas may be closer to the breaking point, but the Walker Lane could see a major earthquake at any time.

Thompson and I returned to TRIC’s central office, where Gilman, now walled in by paperwork, was gearing himself up for several hours of new business calls. Last year, a company called Blockchains scooped up 67,000 acres of TRIC land to build a libertarian “smart city.” With that sale, the development had all but sold out. It was time, Gilman told me, to pursue new opportunities. “We’re in the path of growth,” he said, as heavy trucks boomed by on the highway, shaking the earth.

This four paragraph section is an interesting aside in the larger discussion of the Walker Lane Fault. But, it is a fascinating aside as office parks and industrial parks are not unique in the United States. Thousands of communities, ranging suburbs to exurban areas to more rural areas, have blocks of land set aside for commercial and industrial use. But, how many places have anything near 160 square miles set aside?

What makes this business park unique alongside the size is the relative location to other place, the particular setting, and the time the land became available. First, a location outside Reno puts the business park within roughly 4 hours of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. That is not an easy commute but it can be done in a day or for a short trip. Second, the city of Reno and the state of Nevada have some features that are attractive to some companies. Third, having all of this land available now and in recent years means that some momentum can build regarding who is interested in the space (such as Tesla and libertarian-oriented firms). Take away one of these factors and the particular success of a business park of this size might be different or there might be a very different mix of interested companies. More broadly, numerous business facilities and stores sit vacant at desirable locations throughout the United States yet this business park attracts attention.

Nevada’s proposed $1.25 billion tax break for Tesla would just crack top 10 biggest tax breaks

Nevada is determining how much in tax breaks to offer Tesla – and the current deal appears to be $1.25 billion.

The tax incentive package assembled by Gov. Brian Sandoval to woo Tesla’s “Gigafactory” battery plant is unprecedented in size and scope for the state of Nevada and is one of the largest in the country.

The overall value to Tesla is estimated to be $1.25 billion over 20 years—a figure that is more than double the $500 million package CEO Elon Musk said would be required to draw the company.

If the deal is approved by the Nevada Legislature, Tesla will operate in the state essentially tax free for 10 years.

In exchange, the company must invest a minimum of $3.5 billion in manufacturing equipment and real property in the state—a threshold that is much lower than the $10 billion state officials say they expect the company to invest in Nevada over the next two decades.

This is a big financial deal, one that Nevada apparently doesn’t want to let get away. If approved, this would be the tenth largest tax break offered by a state to a corporation:

If approved by the Legislature, the tax incentive package would be the 10th largest in the country, according to data compiled by Good Jobs First, a labor-backed non-profit that analyzes tax incentives. Here are the current top 10 tax incentive deals in the country:

  • Washington: Boeing, $8.7 billion
  • New York: Alcoa, $5.6 billion
  • Washington: Boeing, $3.2 billion
  • Oregon: Nike, $2 billion
  • New Mexico: Intel, $2 billion
  • Louisiana: Cheniere Energy, $1.7 billion
  • Pennsylvania: Royal Dutch Shell, $1.65 billion
  • Missouri: Cerner Corp., $1.64 billion
  • Mississippi: Nissan, $1.25 billion

It would be interesting to know a few things:

1. What happens if Tesla does not provide the jobs or the value projected? Does their tax break adjust downward accordingly?

2. Who is Nevada competing against and what are their offers? With such high stakes, it wouldn’t be unheard of for a party to overbid against themselves.

3. What do Nevada residents think of this? Tesla could lead to jobs and tax revenues a decade down the road but this is a lot of potential revenue that a corporation will benefit from.

With this kind of money being thrown around (or at least theoretically available), don’t most municipalities and states have to play this game in order to attract businesses? And in the long run, who can keep up with this competition?

McMansions can derail your retirement plans

Amidst concerns baby boomers will have difficulty selling their homes, here is a suggestion that buying a McMansion can derail retirement plans:

We occasionally hear about a friend who somehow saved up enough money, or just decided to chuck it, and walks off to retire at age 60, 55 or even 50. It can be done.

Also, some people live in a McMansion, drive a Tesla, and vacation in the south of France. But we know it’s a very expensive lifestyle. And we know we all can’t afford it, as the real estate bust of the 2000s so cruelly reminded us. We need to appreciate that, like buying a McMansion, taking early retirement is a very expensive proposition. Yes, a fortunate few can afford it. But most of us just have to get real.

Two things are interesting here. The first is that purchasing a McMansion seriously hampers retirement plans. Purchasing one uses up a lot of money and saddles the owner with a large mortgage (plus the home might be underwater and it can cost a lot to fill such a large home). A more prudent investor would purchase a more modest home rather than splurging on a McMansion.

The second interesting part of this is the comparison to owning a Tesla or vacationing in France, both relatively rare things. For example, Teslas start around $70,000 and only about 22,500 were sold in 2013. In the 2000s, it was common to see McMansion purchases compared to SUVs, a mass production item that cost much less than a Tesla. The implication then is that McMansions are even rarer today, making it even more of a folly to own one.

Want better crash test ratings for your car? Have a trunk in the front

The latest model from Tesla Motors received high marks in crash-test ratings. What is the secret to the safety of this electric car?

The luxury electric sedan earned an overall safety rating of five out of five stars from the federal agency, Tesla announced Tuesday. It also earned at least five stars in every category, a feat that puts it in the top 1 percent of cars tested by NHTSA…

Because the $70,000-plus electric car does not require a large gasoline engine block, there is added room in the front of the car for crumple zones, which absorb energy from front-end collisions. The motor is only about a foot in diameter and is mounted close to the rear axle, away from the most common impact zones. The car’s front section is instead used as a second trunk.

“A longer crumple zone means there’s a longer period of time in which the crash is unfolding,” said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which has not yet tested the Model S. “The vehicle can slow down over a longer period of time, which benefits the people inside.”

In its press release, Tesla compares it to a diver jumping into a pool of water from a tall height. “[I]t is better to have the pool be deep and not contain rocks.”

Didn’t more cars in the past have the engines in the rear? This idea could prompt all sorts of government action: why not require, or at least strongly recommend, the front of the car should not have an engine for safety reasons? Perhaps Tesla is doing some other interesting things with their design to minimize crash damage but this seems like an “easy” fix to the number of injuries and fatalities in cars each year.