Ford is in the process building a huge new electric vehicle assembly plant approximately 40 miles northeast of Memphis, and the reality of what that means for folks on the ground in rural Tennessee is starting to set in with a mixture of excitement and apprehension, as detailed in a new report from Bloomberg.
BlueOval City, as it's been christened, will be a six-square mile compound building Ford's electric pickup trucks and battery packs to suit, and it's slated to open in 2025. Built-in partnership with South Korean firm SK On, it's the first new assembly plant Ford has built in over 50 years. The goal is for it to be carbon neutral from the start, powered solely by renewable energy, adding zero waste to landfills, and relying mainly on captured and recycled stormwater. It's expected to welcome 6,000 new workers and produce around 350,000 trucks a year. Construction on the site broke ground in September.
Bloomberg spoke to a number of locals who voiced various concerns about everything from pollution and road congestion to increased land prices. Some also wonder about future expansion plans, and whether the rural way of life they treasure will disappear. At the same time, many in the small towns dotting the area are excited for the jobs, the potential for better economic conditions in the region overall, and how that might make BlueOval City more of a unifying force for the population.
It may have only been a couple months since the groundbreaking, but construction is already well underway, making change feel all the more real. Ford knows it's got to keep Tennesseans on its side, and so it's got a number of community outreach initiatives underway. Ford's been sending reps out into small towns like nearby Stanton to answer people's questions, build relationships with local business leaders, and generally put a face to what's otherwise a massive, kind of faceless project. Ford has also working with the state to incorporate the necessary skills for building EVs into the curriculums at Tennessee's technical schools to properly prep tomorrow's workforce.
Back up in Michigan, state officials there are starting to wonder if Ford's future may be in the south, though Ford reps point out that the 11,000 jobs (construction and manufacturing) created by BlueOval City in Tennessee pale in comparison to the 45,000 people in employees in Michigan. Likewise, UAW officials are concerned about Ford expanding manufacturing operations in a right-to-work state, where BlueOval City will only be unionized if the workers there vote on it in the future.
For better or worse, Ford is investing big in its new facilities in the South, and these factories will play a crucial role in the automaker's efforts to wrest market share from Tesla in the EV space.
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