LAS VEGAS — Electric car maker Tesla Motor Co. insisted Thursday it is meeting revised hiring goals at a giant northern Nevada battery manufacturing plant for which it has been promised $1.3 billion in state tax incentives.
In a statement disputing reports that it is behind in hiring, the Palo Alto, California-based company said construction started late, and state officials have said they are satisfied Tesla is meeting investment and job-creation benchmarks.
"We are on schedule with our production, hiring and investment numbers," the statement said.
Concern about hiring came after the company this week received from the state $8 million in transferable tax credits, soon after an audit reported that just 331 jobs had been created at the Tesla industrial park along U.S. Interstate 80 east of Sparks.
Tesla projected in reports to state lawmakers who approved tax incentives in September 2014 that employment would reach 1,700 before January 2017.
The company statement said the audit was conducted almost six months ago, and the plant today employs more than 850 full time employees plus more than 1,700 construction workers.
It said that because construction didn't begin "until almost 2015," expectations should have been changed.
"Tesla expects to hire more than 1,000 additional full-time employees at the Gigafactory in the first half of 2017," the company said.
Steve Hill, chief of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval's Office of Economic Development, also noted Thursday that hundreds of employees have been added since the audit in June.
"It is clear that Tesla is making great progress" on the lithium-ion battery plant, Hill said. When finished, it is expected to cover about 10 million square feet, or about the size of 262 NFL football fields. That will make it one of the largest buildings in the world.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the plant could employ 10,000 people in the next three to four years.
The Nevada state employment office is planning a Saturday job fair in Las Vegas with Panasonic Energy Corp. of North America to recruit employees willing to move to northern Nevada. Panasonic is a partner in the battery factory with Tesla.