Elon Musk is taking his Boring Company circus on the road to Adelanto, California.
Adelanto is a town of 37,000 where the mayor, Gabriel Reyes, works part time and the city manager, Jessie Flores, is the full time chief executive of the city, according to a recent Bloomberg report.
The county supervisor mentioned to Flores recently that Musk's Boring Company was looking for a place to practice digging tunnels, so Flores reached out. "Steve, we’re the ones you’re looking for. When can we meet?," Flores texted Boring's President Steve Davis. Flores suggested meeting at SpaceX's headquarters, which was about 2 hours away from Adelanto.
While the city has "no money or political capital", it did have plenty of dirt, open space and lax views on regulation.
“I inherited a very unstable and mismanaged city, and poorly led. If you want to quote me on that, that would be great,” Flores said. He took over as city manager in 2018. The city is projecting a $4.72 million deficit for 2021 and 33% of its residents live below the poverty line. It doesn't have its own police department, after it was disbanded in 2001 after a corruption probe.
Permits can get same-day turnaround in the city, Flores said. “They understand that it’s economic development and job creation that stimulate the economy, not government bureaucracy,” he continued.
Drone manufacturer General Atomics and prefabricated construction manufacturer Clark Pacific also have footprints in Adelanto. The city also houses a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center run by the Geo Group.
Flores said of the controversial decision to place a detention center in Adelanto: “They stimulate the economy. There’s guards that are employed. They have families. They have obligations.”
The Boring Company got its first permits to dig back in 2017 in Hawthorne, who has gotten "fed up" with Musk. Upon arriving at SpaceX, Flores and his team got a tour of the facilities and a ride in a test tunnel. Musk's team expressed to Flores that they were tired of getting blamed for kicking up dust when they dug. “We have plenty of dirt,” Flores responded. “We wouldn’t be able to tell if it’s your dirt.”
Boring sought out a half-mile long property and Adelanto offered up "a 20-acre plot zoned for manufacturing on the eastern fringes of town, just off U.S. Route 395." The land was also prime-time in terms of lack of red tape, Bloomberg wrote:
That the land had previously hosted the Adelanto Grand Prix, an annual motocross event, which was canceled last year because of Covid-19, meant extra good news for Boring. The property is considered previously disturbed, which meant less environmental red tape. Another bonus: Joshua trees, a protected species in California and common elsewhere in town, are largely absent from the site, which meant Boring wouldn’t have to go through the costly and time-consuming process of hiring an arborist to dig up and replant them. Boring and the seller, a limited partnership in Orange County, Calif., quickly agreed on a price of $495,000.
When Bloomberg tried to accompany Flores to The Boring Company for a visit, he was told that the facilities "couldn’t accommodate guests that week". The foreman on site told Bloomberg he winds up chasing five or six people a day away. As for what the company is doing at the site? "It involves experimenting with tunnel techniques, including digging the initial portion of a tunnel at an angle, rather than digging a hole and then dropping the boring machine down to the level of the tunnel," the report says.
Many of the workers live three hours away in Las Vegas, though local businesses are seeing pops in businesses as workers spend money for meals and other necessities in town.
Flores is fine with all of it. "We’ll take a gigafactory, and any other factory he wants to build in our city. Let’s go back to the industrial modern revolution, right? Where we’re building robotics, artificial intelligence.”