Contest for Tesla factory

Lennart Ruuda
, reporter
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Electric vehicles maker Tesla made it known last year that it plans to build its next factory in Europe. The announcement has resulted in a race where countries try to advertise themselves as the best possible location for the gigafactory.

There have been calls from France, Finland, and Lithuania for example. Estonia is now in that number. The campaign to lure Tesla to Estonia is pulled by the Pakri Science and Industrial Park head of which Enn Laansoo Jr. believes it would be entirely possible to have the factory come to Paldiski.

Laansoo said that Estonia would make a very good geographic and logistic location for the factory as the area has all the necessary raw materials and red tape is modest. Factories on the Pakri peninsula could be powered by their own grid that would give owners complete control of the price of electricity.

He said that Tesla is active in a field the Pakri Science and Industrial Park has been concentrating on for ten years. „We want to attract the attention of other green tech manufacturers and lure them to Pakri through a successful campaign. It would be very good if our campaign would bring new companies here; however, everyone would gain were they to settle elsewhere in Estonia.“

Estonia's message to Tesla is that were the carmaker a country, it would probably be Estonia. Laansoo believes Estonia shares the innovative spirit and manner of solving problems of Tesla's founders.

He also said Estonia is one of the friendliest places in the world when it comes to electric vehicles as the entire country is covered in a network of charging stations and there is legislation for self-driving cars. The most important part of the campaign is an online video that presents Estonia as a successful technology country where business is done quickly and professionally.

Laansoo said that next they will contact Tesla directly to seek a meeting with the company's representatives. „We have not met with them; however, that is what is interesting about this campaign: no one really knows what Tesla is looking for. Countries are trying to attract attention using different tricks and videos,“ he said.

Estonia's campaign uses Enterprise Estonia's (EAS) brand toolbox and is financed in equal parts by the Pakri industrial park and the enterprise support agency. Tallinn Science Park Tehnopol is involved as a campaign partner.

Head of EAS Alo Ivask said there is fierce competition for foreign investments. „It would be a shame were the factory to end up in a neighboring country without so much as an effort from us. We need to use these kinds of windows of opportunity,“ he said.

Ivask added that an investment like the one attached to the battery factory would create fertile soil and serve as a good example for others who want to come to Estonia. „It would be an incredible landmark. However, even if we do not get the factory, it might lead us to other options we currently cannot see,“ he explained.

Ivask pointed out that the campaign is the first project to make use of EAS' brand toolbox to such an extent.

Minister of Enterprise and Information Technology Urve Palo said Pakri is a good fit for Tesla as it has proper ports, rail connection, energy capacity, and because the Paldiski region is an established industrial area.

„Availability of workforce will be the most complicated problem to solve as it is probable the factory will need hundreds of engineers who are definitely not idle today,“ the minister said. Palo said that help might come from the „Work in Estonia“ program that could help bring in foreign labor.

The minister added that Paldiski can apply for support for a rental apartment building to ensure workers would have quality accommodation.

Lithuania has pursued perhaps the most visible campaign to court Tesla so far in which 40 Lithuanians used the Minecraft game to build a virtual Tesla factory and make a video about it.

The goal was to send a message to Tesla executive manager Elon Musk that Lithuania has a lot of qualified labor and would make for a good location for the new plant.

Lithuania managed to attract Tesla's attention as the company tweeted in response: „Lithuania knows the way to our heart“.

Minister of Economic Affairs of Lithuania Mindaugas Sinkevicius said that the Minecraft campaign was just the beginning, and that the country will continue to make efforts toward becoming the home of Tesla's new factory.