How Tesla built its Buffalo workforce beyond solar to dodge a big state penalty (The Buffalo News)

David Robinson - The Buffalo News

February 01, 2022

Originally published in The Buffalo News on February 01, 2022.

Tesla Inc. easily met the job targets at its South Buffalo factory, but the work it does there is far different from the original plan to focus on solar energy.

The company said Tuesday that it has 1,619 full-time and 17 part-time employees at the Buffalo factory, comfortably topping the 1,460 jobs that Tesla needed to avoid a $41.2 million penalty from the state.

The report – subject to verification by state officials – also indicates that Tesla continues to hire at the South Park Avenue facility, adding 83 jobs locally between Nov. 10 and the end of last year – a rate of about 11 new hires each week.

But the mix of jobs at the Buffalo plant is different from what was originally envisioned when the state paid more than $950 million to build and partially equip a factory that was expected to focus on solar energy.

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Tesla also has hired hundreds of people to work on its autonomous driving programs for electric vehicles, although many of those positions are for data annotation work that only requires a high school diploma.

Tesla's agreement with the state, part of the Buffalo Billion economic development initiative, only requires the company to have a certain number of jobs in Buffalo. It does not include any provisions on the type of job or how much they pay.

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"We are happy to have the jobs, but the state should have demanded that they pay higher wages and employ unionized workers," said state Sen. Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo.

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