Representatives for Tesla, along with partners from Travis County, invited small business owners to a Sept. 16 webinar to introduce interested subcontractors to the company’s pre-qualification process. In particular, Tesla’s outreach has focused Historically Underutilized Businesses in Central Texas, those certified as being owned by minorities, women, veterans or other disadvantaged demographics by either the city of Austin Small Business and Minority Business Resources Department, the State of Texas or the South Central Texas Regional Certification Agency.
Tesla’s economic incentives agreement with Travis County included a commitment to “make a good-faith effort” to employ local HUBs during the gigafactory’s design and construction process.
“We want to make sure that a company like ours, a majority minority company, is able to take advantage of the great, diverse, diverse talent pool that exists in the Travis County area,” said Rohan Patel, Tesla senior global director of public policy and business development.
Tesla Procurement Manager Jessica Munoz said two general contractors have already been selected for the project, though their names have yet to be announced. Tesla is also seeking subcontractors to bid on a range of work this month, including site logistics, painting, flooring, fireproofing, interior finishing, plumbing, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and electrical projects. In October, Tesla will request proposals for fencing, waste and recycling subcontracts, and in November, proposals for architectural interior work will begin.
“The more urgent needs that we have are in terms of plumbing, HVAC and electrical, as well as janitorial needs,” Munoz said.
While the main design firm for the gigafactory project, Jacobs Engineering, has already been selected, Munoz also said Tesla still needs additional design and engineering consultants, especially to assist with surveying.
As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, all businesses interested in subcontracting with Tesla must complete the company’s pre-qualification process, called eComply, which requests information about the applicant’s experience and qualifications as well as their environmental, financial and ethical records.
Because the gigafactory is such a large project—an approximately 2,500-acre development—Tesla representatives acknowledged that many of the project’s contracts would not be conducive to partnerships with small businesses, including HBUs. However, Cloteal Haynes, a local contracting consultant for Tesla, said Tesla plans to offer many smaller scopes of work in order to encourage the participation of a variety of potential partners.
“They’re attempting to look at what the best split is to really encourage good response across the board, including from HBUs,” Haynes said.
Additionally, Patel said, Tesla plans to forge more community partnerships with local institutions that can offer expertise and benefit from Tesla’s cooperation. Tesla has already established partnerships with Del Valle ISD, Huston-Tillotson University, Austin Community College and the engineering program at The University of Texas at Austin.
“We’re going to need a lot of partnerships going forward in terms of engineering, supply chain logistics—a whole range of efforts,” Patel said. “What will really be cool is the partnership possibilities with some of the technical colleges and high schools and taking that to the next level. We’re just scratching the surface now and would love to really dive deeper.”
More information about Tesla's contracting opportunities can be found on the website for the city of Austin's Small and Minority Business Resources Department.