They say at Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory, nobody ever goes in and nobody ever comes out.
It's not quite that extreme at the Tesla factory in South Buffalo, but getting a tour of the closely guarded facility has been no easy task since construction begain in 2014. This week, Spectrum News got a golden ticket.
The invitation for local media to tour parts of the 26 acre facility came connected to positive news. The company is well ahead of its contractual obligation to put 500 workers in the building by April of next year. It said there are already 800 employees there.
"People think I'm a lot more interesting because of it. It's definitely a huge name so for it to come to Buffalo is a big deal and people are definitely excited that I'm working here," said quality insurance inspector Alex Finnerty said.
The visit also came with stipulations. Media outlets weren't allowed to bring their own cameras inside, management would only speak on background and some questions they simply wouldn't answer. The workers who were made available appeared to be well-trained about what they could and couldn't say.
"I'd rather just kind of talk about my experiences more or less, what I've done so far to get to this point," Finnerty replied when asked about production ramping up.
The secrecy, the cost, and the corruption associated with the facility's construction made it an easy target for critics of the governor during election season. Maintenance technician Corey Leone said candidates didn't know what they were talking about.
"I watched a lot of it and I had to bite my tongue knowing that I have a code of conduct that I have to abide by, but it was really hard," he said. "It was really hard to see the negativity day and day and day on the news, but what we're doing here is great."
With emerging technology comes trade secrets. The product is not an everlasting gobstopper, but a solar roof. Essentially, Tesla sandwiches Panasonic's solar cells, also produced in the factory, between tempered glass and crafts it to look like shingles. They showed the process during the tour.
"My opinion, it's amazing how the product works," Leone said.
The company said costs for a solar roof vary but quotes are available on the website. Tesla said demand is high and it is in the process of continuing to expand its facility. It said it's on pace to meet its target of nearly 1,460 Buffalo jobs.