Elon Musk’s footprint in Texas keeps getting bigger.
The appraised value of properties in the state owned by the billionaire’s companies has climbed in recent years to at least $2.5 billion, according to county land appraisal data aggregated by NBC News.
An analysis of the data shows that the appraised value of Musk’s companies’ land holdings has grown over 400% in the past five years, a combination of investments in the land and rising real estate prices. Most of that rise can be attributed to two major investments: Tesla’s Gigafactory near Austin and SpaceX’s launch site at the southern tip of the state.
It’s not clear just how much land those companies have acquired, and Texas does not require public disclosure of any actual real estate sale prices. Each county’s local government appraisal office evaluates the market value of the properties on an annual basis for tax purposes.
The actual market value of the Texas real estate held by Musk companies could be higher than the appraisals. Matt Holm, the owner of an Austin-based real estate company and the president of the Tesla Owners’ Club Austin, said that most property owners would have attorneys try to suppress their land valuations to keep their land taxes lower and that the value of land owned by Musk’s affiliated companies could have gone up even more.
What is clear is that Musk’s companies have been busy. SpaceX, Tesla and The Boring Company have engaged in at least 346 real estate acquisitions across Texas in the past five years, according to the aggregated data, which included all known affiliated companies but did not include any of Musk’s private real estate.
Musk personally moved to Texas in December 2020 out of dissatisfaction with California’s regulatory environment and high taxes. It’s not clear whether he personally owns property in Texas, but in 2021, he said that he rented a home in Boca Chica for $50,000 and that he owns only one home, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Also in 2020, Tesla revealed its new Gigafactory project would be built in Travis County, which includes Austin. Musk later promised it would be a $10 billion investment.
Tesla’s Gigafactory accounts for most of the rise in value for the real estate portfolio. Land acquisition data from the local government appraisal office in Travis County shows that Tesla has acquired land in the area since 2018 with an initial value of $342 million. As of last month, Tesla has reported an estimated $1.9 billion of infrastructure development at those properties, according to public licensing records. Together, the spending in the county amounts to over $2.2 billion.
SpaceX and The Boring Company also have considerable presences in Texas, with real estate holdings values appraised at $242 million as of January, according to public appraisal data from three major counties in which Musk’s company operates.
SpaceX’s footprints in Texas are concentrated in Bastrop County, where Starlink is based, and Cameron County, on the western Gulf Coast in South Texas, where its so-called Starbase, or Brownsville South Texas Launch Site, is located, according to the company. SpaceX also has three other launch sites: two in Florida and one in California.
Musk’s tunnel-boring venture, The Boring Company, owns land appraised at roughly $3.6 million at its headquarters in Bastrop County, bordering southeast Austin.
As Musk has deepened his investments in the state, his ties with local politicians have strengthened, especially around Giga Texas’ arrival in 2020. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, announced the project through a tweet, saying, “It’s been fun to get to know you. Welcome to Texas,” along with a photo of him and Musk.
Since then, he has become a bigger presence in Texas politics.
Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said: “It is a win-win situation for both. Politicians want the prestige and wealth affiliated with Musk, while Musk benefits from the state’s lack of income tax and the modest scale of regulation.”
In September, Musk made a sudden visit to Eagle Pass, a U.S.-Mexico border city, along with Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Republican who represents Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, which covers a sizable part of West Texas. In 2020, Musk publicly endorsed former Rep. Mayra Flores, R-Texas, in a tweetback, saying, “I voted for Mayra Flores — first time I ever voted Republican.”
Jillson suggested that his latest statements around politics could be strategically beneficial. “As one of the wealthiest people in the world, he knows very well that political decisions, regulations and legislation affect his businesses in visible and dramatic ways,” he said, “so he wants to have influence over regulation and lawmaking.”
Musk and Abbott most recently appeared together in May to break ground for Tesla’s first domestic lithium refinery site in Nueces County, near the greater Corpus Christi area. The $375 million facility will receive $16.2 million in tax breaks offered by the Robstown Independent School District over 10 years, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Abbott, Flores and Gonzales’ office did not respond to requests for comment.