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A new $5.2 million Tesla sales, service and distribution center will emerge from vacant land south of Eagle County Regional Airport this spring. The company withdrew its gypsum building permit last Friday.
Sean Naylor/Vail Daily

Tesla, the famous electric vehicle and clean energy company based in Austin, Texas, is coming to Gypsum.

Late last Friday, the company submitted plans for a new $5.2 million, 35,349 square foot sales, service and delivery center to be located at 550 Plane St. in Gypsum. The parcel is located directly south of Eagle County Regional Airport and is part of Rocky Mountain Commerce Park, a 28-acre development by Fortius Capital.

Tesla hopes to open its new center by May 1 this year. Gypsum officials anticipate a construction period of nine to twelve months before the center opens.

“This will create a cascading effect of economic development,” noted Gypsum Town manager Jeremy Rietmann. “It’s going to be a big deal.”

Rietmann said the new Tesla center will employ about 40 people. As a sales tax generator, the operation’s impact will be limited as only Gypsum residents will pay sales tax on vehicle purchases at the site. Other buyers will pay the use tax when they register their vehicles.

“The biggest impact will be the flow of traffic that’s aggregated around usage like this,” Rietmann said. “If you’ve ever come to Costco from Steamboat or Summit County, now you can have your car serviced or check out a Tesla in person while you’re here.”

How the deal was done

Rietmann said Tesla’s story of Gypsum is a deal that spanned decades. It all started when Gypsum annexed Eagle County Regional Airport and its surrounding lands.

“Mayor Steve Carver and Gypsum City Council are to be commended for their forward-thinking leadership over the past two decades. Their work has positioned the city to be lucky with great economic development opportunities like this,” Rietmann said. “They had a vision to set aside significant tracts of land for light industrial and commercial development in the Spring Creek area that no one knew for sure, at the time, would ever come.”

Gypsum played the long game in its strategy. Many parcels around the airport have been vacant for years, while several contractor stockyards, RV storage spaces and self-storage units have sprung up in the area.

“These sites are in high demand and provide great economic value to property owners,” Rietmann said. “But they don’t necessarily create a lot of value for the community as a whole in terms of things like jobs.”

Fortius Capital — founded by Wolcott native Mike Person — had a different vision for its Rocky Mountain Commerce Park plan.

“When Rocky Mountain Commerce Park was approved by the city, this developer said it was well placed for a hub. They said it was a good location to do a lot more trade and higher value economic uses,” Rietmann said. “Their original proposal to the city was to reserve one or two of these lots for high-value economic opportunities. They certainly delivered.

“They were determined to want to see this package be more,” Rietmann continued. “It took a lot of courage for them to do that. They had to say no to a lot of offers for this land.

Shopping at destination

Fortius development director Patrick Scanlan noted that the company is better known locally as a residential developer. Fortius has built over 300 units in the Gypsum/Dotsero area.

“So far, we’ve given locals a place to live, and with this industrial park, we can give locals a place to work and also give local businesses a way to really thrive,” Scanlan said.

After the city approved his 28-acre business park, Scanlan reached out to an acquaintance — Jon Hardy of Denver-based Game Creek Holdings — who was exploring options for a Tesla location in the Roaring Fork Valley. Scanlan pioneered the idea that Eagle County was a better place – more accessible to a wider geographic area.

“Costco is already a destination,” Scanlan said. “We stayed in touch with Jon and told him why Rocky Mountain Commerce Park would be the perfect location.”

While they worked on the deal, the Fortius team also worked hard to keep their efforts as low-key as possible. “Tesla is a pretty close to the vest company, so we’ve kept it close to the vest as well,” Scanlan said.

“The City of Gypsum has been a great partner to work with on this,” Scanlan added. “It was our commitment to the town of Gypsum not to introduce more storage condos. Our goal was to give Gypsum a job center.

Investments pay off

Rietmann believes improved infrastructure makes Gypsum a more attractive development option.

“The city has spent the past several years working with various business partners to improve Gypsum’s telecommunications infrastructure and support local economic development and jobs for our residents,” Rietmann said.

Comcast is expected to complete its Gypsum fiber network project by the end of 2022. Visionary Broadband operates a wireless broadband network that can now serve the majority of the community. Verizon and AT&T have made significant improvements to Gypsum’s cellular services over the past three years.

“These projects have helped create competition for the Internet and other telecommunications services that didn’t exist just a few years ago,” Rietmann said.

Additionally, Rietmann noted that the old adage is true – success breeds success.

“Gypsum is now home to several major brands that are creating regional appeal for Gypsum that didn’t exist before, including Costco, Ace Hardware and soon to be Tesla,” Rietmann said. “These businesses attract regional customers who also benefit our local restaurants, family retailers and other businesses by increasing Gypsum’s daytime population.”