Believe it or not, the space business does pay in some circumstances. Today, Tesla Motors announced that it will build an assembly plant for its White Star electric sedan in Albuquerque, New Mexico. KRQE, the local CBS affiliate, has some video of Tesla Chairman Elon Musk giving remarks and an interview with Gary Tonjes from the Albuquerque Economic Development Department (double click on the video to get a full-screen version). The details of the incentives were not provided. The car plant will be next to the new Tempur-Pedic mattress plant on the West side of Albuquerque. Here's a map of the area.
So what does a car company have to do with space? Apparently, the connection was made through Musk being known to the New Mexicans as a member of the X Prize Foundation Board of Trustees. 2008 presidential candidate Governor Richardson has been handing out incentives from New Mexico's budget surplus at a brisk pace. He has landed Eclipse Aviation, the X Prize Cup, Spaceport America, Advent Solar and now Tesla Motors, among others. The interesting aspect of these incentives is that many of the recipients are start-up endeavors. Eclipse just delivered its first jet, the first X Prize Cup was held in October 2006, Spaceport America is in the process of construction, Advent Solar is in the process of building its first plant, and Tesla will deliver its first car later this year.
As expressed before, I'm looking on with fascination as Richardson makes all of these high-risk plays with the taxpayers' money. Probably, I would vote him out of office, but I can't say for certain that this is bad spending. I note that at the end of 1998, New Mexico had the worst state unemployment rate in the nation. Right now, it has the 15th best (3.8%), so at a minimum it can't be said that Richardson has done a particularly poor job, even though he has been governor for only 4 years.