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Free pizza and a 75-foot statue of Musk: the battle for the next Tesla plant



(Reuters) – Tulsa, Oklahoma, is an oil-industry town with a 75-foot (23 m) statue called “The Golden Driller.”

Austin, Texas, is a progressive city in a conservative state with a thriving software industry and a “Keep Austin Weird” counterculture image.

These two very different towns have one thing in common: They are both on the short list to land a $1.1 billion vehicle assembly plant for Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) – and up to 20,000 new jobs.

With a decision expected within a few weeks, the Austin-versus-Tulsa contest is heating up as Tesla and its chief executive, Elon Musk, stoke a bidding war over tax breaks and other concessions that would reduce the factory’s cost.

Travis County, home to Austin, is expected to vote this week on a portion of ten-year tax rebates totaling more than $65 million. The company told Texas officials the new plant would create at least 5,000 jobs, while Oklahoma officials were told about the creation of at least 7,000 jobs in the near term and up to 20,000 positions down the line.

But some Austin residents have told officials they are skeptical about subsidizing what is now the world’s most valuable auto company, after previously turning away Inc (AMZN.O).

“Instead of focusing to get people a living wage … you’re giving tax breaks to a company that’s worth billions. It makes no sense,” Silvia Zuvieta-Rodriguez, a student at the University of Texas, told officials at a recent county hearing.

Tesla in public filings with Travis County said local and state tax incentives “serve a critical role” in getting the new factory under way and successfully compete against longstanding industry rivals. Tesla did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

In Oklahoma, Tesla fever is on full display.

That Golden Driller statue? It was recently repainted by a local Tesla fan club to look something like Musk, sporting a Tesla logo on its chest and a belt buckle emblazoned with the company’s name.

Musk himself flew in on July 3 to visit the undeveloped site overlooking Tulsa that would house the new factory, which would build Model Y sport utility vehicles and Tesla’s futuristic Cybertruck. Musk met with the state’s governor under a white tent in the sweltering summer heat, according to pictures posted on Twitter by Oklahoma’s governor, Kevin Stitt.

Oklahoma officials were scheduled to make their pitch to dozens of senior Tesla executives in a Zoom call on Monday afternoon.

“The response here continues to be overwhelming,” said Oklahoma Commerce Secretary Sean Kouplen. “In the time that we’re in, having something positive to hold on to or grab is really making a difference.”

Even local retailers have caught the Tesla bug. Kouplen’s children came home the other day with a photo of a special Tesla-themed snow-cone sold by a local store, and a Tulsa pizzeria has promised to give out free pies to all Tesla employees.

Tulsa, once known as the “Oil Capital of the World,” is trying to remake its image with a $1 billion renovation of its downtown, including hip coffeehouses, raft races, jazz clubs and efforts to attract white-collar workers who can work remotely.

A new video featuring testimonials from engineers who recently relocated to Tulsa has been viewed 200,000 times, including by Musk, according to Oklahoma officials.

Several websites attempting to appeal to Tesla have sprung up. One, called “Big F*cking Field,” purports to be in the voice of a plot of land and includes humorously fake endorsements by the likes of Thomas Edison.

“We were the original oil boom town in the ‘20s and it’s a cool way of saying something is changing,” said Jacob Johnson, the creator of the websites and a Tulsa-based digital marketing executive.

In its search for a new plant site, Tesla short-listed eight central U.S. states and received incentive packages from many others, but only Tulsa and Travis County remain in the running. The company told Texas officials its plant would create more than 5,000 mainly low-skilled jobs at an average salary of $47,000.

Oklahoma has signed a nondisclosure agreement about its incentives package, but Kouplen claimed the bid was not only competitive but better in parts than Travis County’s. It includes business and personal tax breaks, most of which were already guaranteed under state law, which meant they would not require the kinds of public votes that have been delayed several times in Austin.

Details on the Travis County tax breaks emerged only during public hearings and it remains unclear whether the state of Texas would provide additional incentives. Governor Greg Abbott’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Squeezing states for incentives is not new to the auto industry. Tesla itself received some $1.4 billion in incentives to build a battery plant in Nevada in 2014 and Alabama attracted German carmaker Mercedes-Benz (DAIGn.DE) with a $253 million package in the 1990s.

Those outlays now pale compared with the wealth of Musk, who is in reach of a payday potentially worth $1.8 billion as the company’s stock rally continues. Tesla shares have more than quadrupled so far this year as the company increased vehicle sales and is expected to return a second-quarter profit.

Reporting and photo: Reuters


Atmosphere Core expands in South Asia with Atmosphere Living ultra-luxury residences



Atmosphere Core, a globally renowned name in hospitality, has announced the launch of Atmosphere Living as part of its continued expansion in South Asia. Headquartered in India, this new company will offer branded ultra-luxury residences with customised end-to-end amenities and indulgences, including coffee lounges, wine cellars, private transport, and bespoke concierge services.

The global branded residences market has experienced a remarkable 150 percent growth over the past decade, and projections indicate a surge in demand. With the real estate veteran Sandeep Ahuja at the helm as Managing Director, Atmosphere Living is strategically positioned to capitaliSe on this demand.

Atmosphere Living will focus on a conscious design philosophy. All properties will be built in harmony with the environment and will incorporate features such as smart recycling, efficient waste and water management, and green energy solutions.

Sharing his insights on the launch, Salil Panigrahi, Managing Director, Atmosphere Core, said, “Atmosphere Living will bring a distinctive offering to India, and is a brand to watch out for. It will combine Ahuja’s decades of experience, knowledge, and industry network in real estate with Atmosphere’s hospitality expertise, introducing unparalleled serviced residences in India.”

Positioned in major metropolitan areas, established second-home destinations, and undiscovered scenic locales nationwide, these projects will also present lucrative investment opportunities. Elite homeowners will have the option to lease their residences back to Atmosphere Living, allowing them to be rented out for income generation.

Sandeep Ahuja, Managing Director, Atmosphere Living, said, “There is currently a gap in the Indian realty landscape for ultra-indulgent serviced homes catering to affluent consumers. We aim to bridge this gap by curating serviced homes that offer indulgences such as entering homes using smart key cards, 24/7 butler services, fine dining, and co-working spaces, among others. Our ultimate desire is to enable our customers to experience a life of true luxury and exclusivity.”

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A night of celestial wonders, luxury, and cosmic inspiration at Anantara Kihavah SKY Observatory by British astronaut Tim Peake



Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas celebrated a historic  milestone with the exclusive visit of the renowned British astronaut, Tim Peake. On the evening of November 2, Astronaut Peake hosted an exclusive space talk at SKY Observatory, the finest  overwater observatory in the Indian Ocean, housing the most powerful telescope in the Maldives. 

Perched gracefully over the pristine Maldivian waters, SKY Observatory provided an idyllic setting for  this extraordinary event, complemented by a stunning sunset. The exclusive gathering attracted a full  house of eager guests to a delightful evening that seamlessly blended science, luxury, and natural  beauty. 

The evening commenced with a lovely cocktail reception, where guests were serenaded by the soulful  tunes of a live saxophone band. Attendees savoured exquisite cocktails and canapés as they eagerly  awaited Tim Peake’s presentation. 

Tim Peake’s talk unveiled his personal journey, where he shared his path to becoming an astronaut  and narrated the rigorous training that astronauts undergo. He provided insights into life in space, the  daily challenges faced by astronauts, and the awe-inspiring experiences he encountered during his 

historic mission. He also offered a glimpse into his exciting future projects, leaving the audience both  inspired and spellbound. 

Following Tim’s presentation, an interactive Q&A session allowed guests to engage directly with the  British astronaut. The audience posed thoughtful questions, deepening their understanding of  astronauts’ unique experiences and the intricacies of space exploration. 

The event was further enriched by the presence of the resort’s three SKY gurus, Hammadh Rasheed,  Zunnoon Ahmed, and Ali Arushal, who conducted a stargazing session for the guests afterward. 

The success of the event was evident in the overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees, who  left with a deeper appreciation for space exploration and a memorable evening to cherish. 

The evening marked a significant moment in Anantara Kihavah’s history, showcasing the resort’s  commitment to offering unique and memorable experiences for its guests. The presence of Tim  Peake, a celebrated astronaut and highly accomplished author, added an extraordinary dimension to  the resort’s already spectacular offerings. 

Tim Peake is a renowned British astronaut who made history as the first official British astronaut to  visit the International Space Station (ISS) and conduct a spacewalk during his six-month mission. He  also achieved the remarkable feat of running the London Marathon from space. Beyond his  extraordinary space endeavours, Tim is also a bestselling author with his most recent book Space: A thrilling human history published earlier this month. 

An astronomer’s paradise, Baa Atoll in the Maldives, is one of the best places on earth to enjoy  stargazing due to its proximity to the equator. Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas promises a voyage of  discovery on a private Indian Ocean Island, with Sky—an overwater observatory and luxury cocktail  bar—providing guests a chance to sip champagne under the stars and explore the Universe.

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Visit Maldives website adds atolls segment to showcase diverse regions



Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation’s (MMPRC/ Visit Maldives) has added a new segment to the official Visit Maldives Website specified for atolls showcasing the diversity of the Maldives.

The segment, now live at provides in depth information regarding the different regions of the Maldives, divided by atolls, to refine the traveller’s experience, commencing with an in-depth exploration of Addu Atoll and Fuvahmulah Atoll.

With 26 atolls, the Maldives offers a wide array of unique accommodations and awe-inspiring travel experiences, and this informative section of our website will serve as a gateway to discover the hidden treasures unique to each area. This falls under MMPRC’s initiatives to encourage tourism growth in all regions of the Maldives, broadening exposure to the diverse tourism products available in the Maldives.

The goal is to elevate Visit Maldives’ digital marketing landscape by showcasing the Maldives as more than just a honeymoon destination with various accommodation options. This initiative is driven by a desire to increase awareness about the distinctive offerings within each of the Maldives’ atolls. It aims to positively shape their perception of the Sunny Side of Life brand by curating engaging content that highlights the unique features of the atolls and diverse experiences available in the islands.

Additionally, the initiative will target the affordable luxury market to promote the Maldives as the most appealing option for short holidays and weekend getaways under a unified Maldives brand umbrella.

MMPRC aims to continue exploring other atolls in the Maldives as well, encouraging growth and tourism development in all regions of the Maldives, building on the foundation we have created to promote the destination beyond the traditional paradigms of sun, sand, and sea.

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