Ford to Open New West Tennessee Plant at Memphis Regional Megasite


Ford Motor Company on Monday announced a $ 5.6 billion investment to create a huge industrial campus about 50 miles northeast of Memphis that will produce a new generation of electric trucks and electric vehicle batteries. Construction is expected to begin by the end of the year, manufacturing is expected to begin in 2025, and the company is expected to employ around 5,700 people.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said the state was competing with around 15 other states to bid on the project and called it “the biggest investment in the history of this state.”

He plans to convene a special legislative session in the coming weeks to approve a grant payment to seal the deal: $ 500 million.

“It will have a generational impact on individuals and families in our state, particularly in western Tennessee,” Lee said on a conference call with reporters. “This really begins the accelerated transformation of western Tennessee that must occur for our state to lead the nation.”

A slide from a Ford Motor Company presentation shows a rendering of the project "Blue oval city" electric truck and battery manufacturing campus near Memphis.  This slide was shown to reporters during a briefing on September 27, 2021.

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The facilities will go to the Memphis Regional Megasite in Stanton, Tennessee, approximately 50 miles from downtown Memphis. For years, executives have invested millions of dollars in infrastructure in the site in hopes of finding a major employer.

Ford now plans to build an assembly plant there that will produce a new generation of F-Series electric trucks. “And it will be our most advanced high-tech facility in the world,” Lisa Drake, director of the company, said Monday. Ford operation for North America, during a briefing with reporters.

And the automaker is working with South Korean company SK Innovation to build a large battery factory on the same site. The site will be called “Blue Oval City”. The blue oval is the symbol of Ford.

The truck plant is expected to employ about 3,200 people and the battery plant about 2,500 more people, said Kumar Galhotra, Ford president of the Americas and International Markets group.

Visit of the Michigan assembly plant where the new Ford Bronco SUV is being built, in Wayne, Michigan, on June 14, 2021. Ford announced on September 27 its intention to build a new plant and a new battery plant on the Memphis regional megasite.

Ford simultaneously announced plans to invest $ 5.8 billion in two new vehicle battery plants in Hardin County, Ky., Also in a joint venture with SK Innovation.

Galhotra said other states are also bidding for industrial projects. He declined to say which ones. “All I can say is that the two governors of Tennessee and Kentucky were deeply committed to the process – they just had a very impressive plan.”

Much of that plan is public funds to train a workforce to build the equipment, Ford officials said.

He said it was too early to discuss salary levels for the jobs, but that they should be well paid.

A 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning is in line inside the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center at the Rouge Ford plant in Dearborn on Thursday, September 16, 2021. Ford announced on September 27 that it plans to build a new plant and a new plant of batteries in Memphis.  Regional megasite.

The Tennessee Valley Authority also plays a role in industrial recruiting. “Reliable, low-cost, clean energy is attracting world-class companies like Ford to the Tennessee Valley,” TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash said in a statement. “Creating jobs and investment in this region is what we do at TVA – it is a fundamental part of our mission. By helping to attract companies like Ford to this region, we are creating the jobs of tomorrow. “

The Greater Memphis Chamber also played a role in recruiting for the project. “I am delighted with this monumental investment in West Tennessee,” the organization’s president and CEO Beverly Robertson said in a statement. “Memphis and Ford have a history together. In 1913, Ford produced wooden wheels and body foundations for Model T Fords in Memphis. Today, 118 years later, they return to transform the Memphis market and making green and carbon-neutral manufacturing the gold standard in the automotive industry. “

The Ford Plant is the type of massive auto factory project that West Tennessee has been looking for for years. But there are big question marks to the project, especially if companies working with governments can recruit and train the workforce they need in a sparsely populated rural area between Memphis and Jackson.

The site is located in Haywood County, which has an estimated total population of approximately 17,000. The workforce would likely come from surrounding areas as well.

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Legislature to consider $ 500 million grant proposal

If approved by the legislature, the proposed $ 500 million tax subsidy will be split between Ford and SK Innovation, said Bob Rolfe, commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

The proposed grant comes with a catch: if job creation goals are not met, the state has legal means to recover the money. This is called a recovery.

“And so we negotiated our standard clawback arrangements, which basically say that the counterpart is going to provide X number of jobs,” Rolfe said.

“And after a certain amount of time, and in this case it’s the next eight to 10 years, after 10 years, we will straighten out.

“And if the company delivered what they said they were going to deliver and report this, we shake hands and we leave friends. If they don’t, then there is a clawback provision. , and then we will pursue our remedies under this clawback provision. ”

The precise terms of the agreement and the language of the contract were not immediately available on Monday.

Lee said he expects the $ 500 million grant to flow through the legislature and said the administration has already spoken with senior leaders and with members.

He said the deal had been in the works for years. “The legislator is well aware of the importance of this site and the importance of good partnerships. We therefore do not anticipate any problems there.”

A press conference to provide more details was scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

Journalist Sam Hardiman contributed to this story.

Investigative journalist Daniel Connolly values ​​advice and comments from the public. Contact him at 529-5296, [email protected], or on Twitter at @danielconnolly.

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