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Oklahoma loses Tesla Gigafactory bid, but it wants EV maker's supplier base

Tesla cut the finalists down to Tulsa, Oklahoma and Austin, Texas, but even though the Lone Star state won out, Oklahoma plans to notch a different win.

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- 02:07

Built in Texas, not Oklahoma as the state hoped.

Tesla

When an automaker says it's preparing to build a new factory, the competition to give the facility a home is fierce. When Tesla says it needs a place to build a new Gigafactory, the luster surrounding the company likely makes the process even more pressing.

So when Tulsa, Oklahoma found itself on the shortlist for a new Gigafactory to build the Tesla Cybertruck, Semi and Model 3 and Model Y for the east coast, the state and local government lit up.

"The way the entire state rallied to try to persuade Tesla was absolutely amazing," Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce Sean Kouplen said in a statement Thursday. "[Tesla CEO] Elon Musk said he had never seen anything like it before. It makes me very proud to be an Oklahoman."

The city's famous Golden Driller statue was given a giant, red "T" for Tesla and Musk's face was painted on to the monument. Tulsa's mayor, G.T. Bynum, promised a fleet of Cybertruck police vehicles to support a local company with trucks made in Oklahoma. The fanfare was, honestly, pretty unreal.

Read moreThe Oklahoman roughnecks who drilled Britain's secret WWII oil wells

But things started to go quiet in the weeks following reports of Tesla's two finalists. Tulsa would compete with Austin, Texas, and Kouplen acknowledged the area has a longer relationship with the electric carmaker.

"Texas was actually the runner-up to Reno, Nevada when Tesla selected their last US Gigafactory location in September 2014, so they had many preexisting relationships heading into this process," Kouplen said. As concrete details of major tax breaks from Austin and surrounding local government trickled out, it became more clear which direction Tesla was headed.

"Tulsa was always considered the underdog but we gave it our all," he added. "We truly believed we were going to be selected until the end."

It's not all doom and gloom for the state, though, and Oklahoma has a plan moving forward. "We did not know anyone at Tesla four months ago, but we have very strong relationships there now," Kouplen said. Those relationships will help it land big names in the future, he hopes.

What kinds of names? Oklahoma said its next plan is to pursue Tesla's supplier base and persuade them to settle locally and support the Austin-based Gigafactory.

"Oklahoma's time is coming soon," Kouplen declared.

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