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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tesla's decision to build a $1 billion factory in Texas is a good bit of economic news for a state that's suffering in the throes of the pandemic.

Why it matters: The creation of 5,000 new manufacturing jobs near Austin comes as the state's ongoing coronavirus outbreak threatens to overwhelm hospital systems and tears at the economy.

  • It's also an election-year gift that could feed competing political agendas.

Driving the news: Tesla CEO Elon Musk disclosed the location of the company's second U.S. auto assembly plant during an investor call Wednesday to discuss its latest financial results.

  • Construction of the nearly 5 million-square-foot factory will begin this fall.
  • It will produce Tesla's unorthodox Cybertruck pickup and an electric Tesla Semi truck, as well as Model 3 and Model Y passenger cars for shipment to the eastern half of the U.S.
"We're going to make it a factory that is going to be stunning. It's right on the Colorado River, so there's actually going to be a boardwalk where there'll be a hiking and biking trail. It's going to basically be an ecological paradise, birds in the trees, butterflies, fish in the stream, and it will be open to the public as well."
— Elon Musk

Context: In Texas, a red state where the race for president is viewed as a tossup, per a Quinnipiac University poll out this month, people care more about the economy than the pandemic or racial inequality.

  • On this issue, Trump has the advantage, leading Biden by a 16-point margin (56% to 40%), according to Quinnipiac.

What to watch: Both candidates could try to use Tesla's move to bolster their own economic narratives. President Trump, elected in 2016 on a pledge to bring manufacturing jobs back to America, often takes credit for companies' decisions to add jobs or expand U.S. production, while attacking CEOs like GM's Mary Barra that do the opposite.

  • On Thursday, Trump told Fox's Sean Hannity: "I said, 'Elon, build a factory in Texas' .... He called me up just a little while ago to say 'I got it done,' meaning he got it done but I was pushing that job very hard from Elon."
Screenshot: @realDonaldTrump (Twitter)

The other side: Democrat Joe Biden, meanwhile, can point to Tesla's factory as a symbol of the types of clean energy jobs he'll promote if elected.

Of note: Three other electric vehicle factories are currently under construction in the U.S.

  • This week, Nikola broke ground on a $600 million factory near Phoenix that will build electric semi trucks starting next year and hydrogen fuel cell trucks in 2023.
  • Lucid Motors' electric sports car will start production by the end of the year at its new factory, also near Phoenix.
  • Rivian, which plans to build electric pickups, SUVs and Amazon delivery trucks, is renovating a mothballed Mitsubishi plant in Illinois.

The bottom line: Both candidates could try to use Tesla's gift to their own political advantage as they try to lift Texans past the pandemic.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 23, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Biden looks to stem oil "transition" furor amid GOP attacks

Former Vice President Joe Biden. ANGELA WEISS / Getty Images

Joe Biden's campaign is looking to blunt attacks in response to his comments in Thursday night's debate about a "transition from the oil industry," as Republicans look to make the remarks a liability in the closing days of the race.

Driving the news: Biden campaign spokesperson Bill Russo, in comments circulated to reporters Friday afternoon, said the former VP "would not get rid of fossil fuels," but wants to end subsidies.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan group of senators seeks coronavirus stimulus deal

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

At least eight Republican and Democratic senators have formed an informal working group aimed at securing new coronavirus spending during the lame-duck session, a move favored by President-elect Biden, two sources familiar with the group tell Axios.

Why it matters: It may be the most significant bipartisan step toward COVID relief in months.

FCC chairman to depart in January

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Ajit Pai will leave his post as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Jan. 20, the agency said today.

Why it matters: Pai's Inauguration Day departure is in keeping with agency tradition, and could set up the Biden administration with a 2-1 Democratic majority at the FCC if the Senate fails to confirm another Trump nominee during the lame-duck period.