State relents, releases Tesla jobs report

The Cuomo administration has finally released a report showing Tesla hiring in Buffalo and across New York is short of quotas it has until Dec. 31 to meet

After several days of delay, the Cuomo administration has released an annual employment report filed by Tesla under the terms of the $950 million public investment in the company’s solar panel production facility in South Buffalo.

Empire State Development Corp., which had denied several requests for a copy of the document from Investigative Post, responded Friday to an appeal filed following a denial of an earlier Freedom of Information Law request for the report that Tesla is required to file by May 31 of each year. 

ESD, which earlier this week issued a statement on the company’s job creation numbers instead of the actual jobs report, said that Tesla had 1,600 employees statewide and has so far invested $800 million in its New York operations, ESD said Tesla reported about 1,000 employees were working at its Buffalo facility.  The company is obligated to employ 1,480 statewide outside the Buffalo area.

The actual report from Tesla lists 878 full-time and 9 part-time workers at the Buffalo site as of April 30 and 573 full-time and seven part-time employees at Tesla sites in other parts of New York. Between May 1, 2020, and April 30 of this year – a period in which Tesla operations were scaled back due to the COVID-19 pandemic – the company invested more than $188 million in combined “capital, operational and other costs” in New York state. 

The report submitted by Tesla includes a note saying that “since the close of the reporting period” the headcount at the Buffalo facility stands at 1,058 – roughly 400 jobs short of the company’s employment benchmark. The note also indicates that the company has 1,665 employees working in New York state as a whole.

In a cover letter accompanying the report, Tesla Treasurer Yaron Klein takes note of the pandemic’s impact on operations, including those that led to “temporary manufacturing closures, supply chain constraints, dampened residential solar markets and impediments to administrative activities.” The letter cites the conditions as impacting both its solar roof and power manufacturing lines, temporarily delaying Tesla’s ability to meet its expected employment levels at the Buffalo factory. 

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In the letter, Klein also says the company is “steadily ramping back up” operations in Buffalo and “diversifying” the facility operations by continuing to “expand the portfolio” of power electronics and vehicle charging equipment manufactured at Riverbend. In closing, Klein says Tesla remains committed to expanding its business throughout New York and anticipates being able to recover from pandemic-related impacts to “meet and exceed” all of its year-two job commitments under its agreement with the state by the end of the year. 

In early May, the state, citing the impact of COVID-19, agreed to extend Tesla’s deadline to meet its employment targets to Dec. 31 of this year. If Tesla fails to meet its obligations, the state can impose a $41.3 million penalty.