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Tennessee lawmakers pleased with incentive plan for Ford Motor Company

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 10:10 PM CDT
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HAYWOOD COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - The Tennessee legislature approved nearly $1 billion Wednesday in order to fast-track the Ford deal.

The carmaker and South Korean battery maker SK Innovation want to build the largest, electric vehicle manufacturing plant in the U.S. at the Memphis Regional Megasite in Haywood County.

Ford has pledged an investment of $5.6 billion on buildings and property improvements.

Lawmakers say the state has a surplus of money in the bank and there’s no need to borrow or issue bonds to come up with the funding.

“West Tennessee is going to be transformed,” said State Representative Karen Camper of Memphis.

The House majority leader said Ford operating a massive, state-of-the-art facility at the Megasite is the economic engine that West Tennessee desperately needs.

“That’s jobs that come into our community,” said Camper. “And the fact that families will be lifted out of poverty, and the fact that’s we’re going to attract so many other businesses to the area.”

The state legislature approved $884 million in incentives during the special session, including a $500 million grant for Ford.

Lawmakers added a clawback provision. If Ford doesn’t meet certain benchmarks after 10 years, like hiring 5,600 workers, the state gets money back.

“I think we’ve protected ourselves pretty well,” said State Representative John Gillespie.

The Republican from Memphis praised lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for working together to pass this legislation.

“I really, truly believe this is a game-changer in every way that you think about it,” he said.

But the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (TCOG) worries the bills passed in Nashville Wednesday give the Megasite Authority - a new governing body - too much power to operate in secrecy.

“These exemptions are anathema to those who support open government and public oversight,” TCOG executive director, Deborah Fisher, wrote, “this oversight is especially important when large amounts of taxpayer money are involved.”

Despite those concerns, Governor Bill Lee and lawmakers are moving forward with confidence.

“This single-largest investment in state history marks a tremendous win for rural Tennessee and will strengthen our workforce for generations,” Lee said in a statement.

Ford wants to start producing trucks at Blue Oval City, the proposed name for the Megasite campus, in two years. There is much to do to get the site ready, including building a wastewater pipeline from Haywood County to the Mississippi River.

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