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Tesla’s New York Jobs Target On Track as Buffalo Factory Expands Beyond Solar

In addition to its solar roof, Tesla will begin making equipment for its energy storage and EV chargers in New York, offering clarity about the future of its Gigafactory 2.

Tesla has pledged to bring 5,000 jobs to New York state within a decade of the Gigafactory 2's completion.

Tesla reported Wednesday that it has exceeded its 2019 jobs target for New York state, with 632 full-time and four part-time jobs through the end of April — more than the 500 it was required to have.

The electric-vehicle, solar and storage producer must meet certain jobs requirements under an agreement with New York that offered Tesla tax benefits for siting its Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo.

There are now 730 full-time workers employed at the Buffalo plant where Tesla's solar roof is produced, a number that encompasses both Tesla's own workers as well as those of Panasonic, its partner at the factory. A filing from Tesla shows that 329 of the factory's 730 employees are Tesla's own workers.

Employment at the factory and Tesla's ability to meet its New York jobs target have been cause for much speculation as the company has weathered a bumpy year of layoffs and changes in its sales strategy for solar products.

The Wednesday announcement offers some clarity about the Buffalo Gigafactory’s future, with Tesla revealing that it has expanded its plans for the plant beyond just solar production. In addition to producing its solar roof in Buffalo, Tesla will make equipment for its energy storage products and its electric vehicle Supercharger.

Tesla is "diversifying its presence in Buffalo," a company spokesperson said. “We’re committed to investing in Buffalo and the state, and the new power electronic lines will deliver more high-tech jobs while supporting Tesla’s energy storage products and global Supercharging infrastructure."

Tesla had spent $381 million investing in New York state through April 30, the company says.

Tesla's next job target in New York — and the first that brings a penalty of $41.2 million if Tesla does not meet it — comes in April 2020. By that time, Tesla is required to have 1,460 employees in Buffalo, though not all have to work at the factory. It must bring 5,000 jobs to the state within 10 years of the facility’s completion.

Although Tesla achieved its 2019 job targets, the move to expand its Buffalo manufacturing beyond solar may draw more concern from within that industry.

Analysts have questioned Tesla’s commitment to the solar business it acquired from SolarCity in 2016. Tesla's residential solar installations have plunged in recent years, dropping 650 megawatts in 2016 to 208 megawatts in 2017, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.

Tesla has said it doesn’t want to grow its solar business “just by chasing volume.” Much of the company's emphasis has shifted to its vehicle business as it grapples with scaling up production.

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