Special session ends, Ford bills passed

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 4:31 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Wednesday marked one step closer to bringing the state’s largest economic investment to Haywood County.

“Our state has not always done right by Haywood or Fayette County. That’s all there is to it,” Senator Yarbro (D-Nashville) said.

But many on the floors of the Tennessee Senate and House of Representatives called it a new day for West Tennessee.

The General Assembly passed two bills to help get development going at the Memphis Regional Megasite. It’s a planned $5.6 billion investment by Ford Motor Company and partnering company SK Innovation to bring an electric vehicle plant to the site.

“People will have good paying jobs they can support their families on,” Senator Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) said. “They’ll be educated for the jobs of the future.”

“The effects of this bill are statewide,” Sen. Ken Yager said. “There will be parts, manufacturers, automotive component manufacturers in my district that will one day get work because of this announcement today and I’m grateful for that.”

One bill outlined the more than 880 million dollars in incentives for the companies… including a 500 million dollar capital grant, which lawmakers say will be a reimbursement to Ford.

The other bill approved the formation of a board called the Megasite Authority of West Tennessee.

“Authorities can grow to be a terrible thing,” Sen. Frank Niceley (R) said.

Though that bill passed the House and Senate with overwhelming support, it drew the most discussion. Many lawmakers are worried about the authority the board has including imminent domain of the site.

" I don’t know if they’d need imminent domain forever,” Niceley said.

One of the bill’s authors said the body can revisit the issue of imminent domain, and how long the board should have it.

“We know we’re going to have to address issues like imminent domain and others that are sure to arise to make sure we are good stewards to the taxpayer dollar,” Sen. Page Walley (R-Bolivar) said.

An amendment in the House to remove imminent domain failed.

Bill Lee said at the end of the special session. He called it an important day.

“I want to congratulate the members of the West Tennessee delegation,” Gov. Lee said. “You have worked particularly hard.”

Construction on the site is supposed to start in early 2022 and wrap up by 2024. The $500 million capital grant is contingent on job creation. The companies must have a majority of the 5,700 jobs promised within ten years.

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