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Sometime in the next couple of months the first electric car manufactured in Casa Grande will roll off the assembly line at the new Lucid Motors plant.

And the city and Pinal County may never be the same again.

Because of the pandemic, I suspect the event won’t be greeted by the amount of ceremonial pomp and circumstance normally associated with such an accomplishment. But that won’t hide the significance of what it means, both economically and, yes, politically.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most significant jobs for a community are those directly involved in the manufacture of durable goods. And the jobs at the top of that category are auto manufacturing jobs.

For instance, a factory that manufactures durable goods and employs 1,000 people has a greater impact on the overall economy than a retail shopping mall that employs 1,000 people. The direct job impact (1,000) is the same, but employment multipliers can show us what the total indirect effects will be.

The Labor Department says that the number of indirect jobs for every 100 direct jobs in durable manufacturing, with auto manufacturing at the highest level, is 744.1, but only 122.1 for retail trade. Therefore, the estimated total number of indirect jobs created for an auto factory would be 7,441; the estimated indirect jobs created by the shopping mall would be 1,221.

So if Lucid Motors ends up employing 2,000 people, as officials say, it will indirectly create almost 15,000 jobs.

Wow.

Now not all those indirect jobs will be in Casa Grande or Pinal County. Many may be in Mexico, where Lucid hopes to establish its supply chain. But the economic impact for Casa Grande will be grand. And if the area does become a hub for such manufacturing, as the proposed Nikola plant in Coolidge may indicate, then many of those indirect jobs could relocate to Pinal County to be closer to the sources.

This means a generational change for the region rather than just an economic shot in the arm.

In a long-term economic climate, replacement needs exist independently of growth. So if an occupation is projected to gain 1,000 new jobs, and 2,000 people who currently work in the occupation are expected to leave it over the next 10 years, then the total number of positions projected to be available to jobseekers is the sum of the two sources of openings, or 3,000. Turnover can be good if workers are seeking advancement within the occupation or related to it.

And all this could bring about political change for the region.

The Zero Emission Vehicle program is a California state regulation that requires automakers to sell electric cars and trucks. Similar laws have been adopted in 14 other states.

This year California air quality regulators approved the nation’s first electric truck standards, requiring over half the trucks sold by manufacturers in the state to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

And Nevada’s “Clean Cars Nevada” initiative would mandate that 6-8% of vehicles automobile dealers offer for sale be electric by 2025.

As the technology advances and allows manufacturers to make electric cars more affordable, more states may adopt standards similar to the requirements Nevada is now considering, which is good news for Lucid and Nikola. And that means good news for Casa Grande and Pinal County. But I doubt at this time you would find many on the street backing any zero emission regulations for Arizona.

Environmentalists back such measures to decrease greenhouse emissions. But Nevada and California are home to Tesla manufacturing operations, so the moves could also be seen as protectionism for a thriving industry.

Sustainable, or green, industries have now entered the realm of big business.

It will be interesting to see if attitudes in Casa Grande and Pinal County change enough for the region to ride along with this changing political trend.

Because as former Secretary of Defense Charles Erwin Wilson observed, “What’s good for Lucid is good for Casa Grande.”

OK, he was talking about GM and the country, but you get the picture.

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You can contact Andy Howell at ahowell@pinalcentral.com.

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