By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Just a year and a day after Ford Motor Company announced plans to convert the long vacant West Tennessee megasite into BlueOval City and a week after construction began, attendees at this week’s “3686 Festival” in Nashville had the opportunity to hear more details about the massive project.
Stuart McWhorter, Tennessee’s Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, and Vanessa Preston, Human Resources Manager for Ford’s BlueOval City, participated in a fireside chat. Ironically, both were roughly 90 days into their new roles and, in an interesting twist, Preston was a Regional Economic Development Specialist with McWhorter’s department from 2008 to 2011.
The $5.6 billion project that will also include a battery plant for SK Innovation encompasses 3,600 acres and is projected to employ as many as 6,000 individuals. With the inclusion of indirect jobs coming from the Ford and SK Innovation investments, the transformative project could result in a total of 27,000 new jobs.
McWhorter, who served as Commissioner of Finance and Administration during the early years of the Lee Administration, told attendees, “We weren’t sure what industry or company was willing to takedown such a large site. We wondered if we would have to divide it. The rush to electrification made the difference.”
Ford will be building what Preston described as a next generation electric vehicle truck. Ford currently produces the F-150® Lightning™ all-electric truck, and she emphasized this will be a different vehicle.
McWhorter described it as both “an exceptional project” and a “generational opportunity.”
For Preston, a native of the region, it is what she described as a “slam dunk for West Tennessee.” Drawing a comparison between entrepreneurs who were attending the “3686 Festival” and the megasite, Preston applauded the “people (who) had the foresight” for what could be built on the long vacant land.