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LATHROP, Calif. - Tesla, the prestige maker of high-performance electric cars, is opening a plant in Lathrop, bringing dozens of jobs and a coup for local economic development.

"We think that just the name recognition alone is very valuable to us," Lathrop City Manager Stephen Salvatore said.

The city worked tirelessly to bring the car maker to town, Salvatore said. The plant will occupy 430,000 square feet in a building along Interstate 5, which was once owned by Chrysler to make auto parts.

"(The jobs) are manufacturing in nature," Salvatore said. "They've pulled building permits and they're over there working now."

At the future plant site, workers said they've known Tesla was coming in for at least two weeks, but the secret did not get out of the bag.

"They got plenty of work going on inside," said Kodiak Roofing's Stephen Vegars, and added he's glad to see the influx of jobs.

In a prepared statement, Tesla said the company will initially be providing about 125 jobs producing parts for their cars. The company builds cars at a plant in Fremont, about an hour's drive to the west.

Salvatore said low fee structures helped Lathrop snag the plant.

"And I would imagine that there are some people that travel to the Fremont facility now that may not have to in the future," Salvatore said. "That would be a great thing.

In the next few years, Lathrop's population is expected to more than triple. But most workers commute to Bay Area jobs and for many, working closer to home is a long-held dream.

"After working in the East Bay for so many years, the commute is crazy, so if I can get a job close, I mean that close to home, of course I'd definitely apply there," said office employee Tamar Belvine, who added she plans to apply for work at the plant.

"It looks like some of the jobs are higher paying jobs and technical in nature," Salvatore said, pointing out that some positions are already listed on Tesla's website.

A parts plant for Tesla will be opening in Lathrop soon. (Tuesday, April 22, 2014) News10

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