Tennessee lawmakers to address Ford factory incentives

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee’s General Assembly is set to address funding, buildout, and oversight of a $5.6 billion campus where Ford Motor Co. plans to build electric F-Series pickup trucks at the Memphis Regional Megasite industrial complex.

“There’s a lot of money being spent there, and they’re taxpayer dollars. So we want to make sure that we’re spending them intelligently and appropriately,” said State Representative Chris Hurt whose district includes Lauderdale, Crockett, and Haywood Counties.

A special session called by Gov. Bill Lee starts Monday. It’s unclear how long the special session will last but lawmakers will discuss the $500 million in incentives that Tennessee is offering to help secure the project. The tax incentives must be approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

“As you can imagine being from rural West Tennessee, where I live and seeing the decline in population that we’ve had and the struggle that we’ve had to recruit and get industry here to allow us to thrive like the middle in East Tennessee that we’re seeing across the state, I’m excited about it,” Hurt said. “It is a large investment. There’s no question. But, the economic impact it will have on Memphis, Shelby County, and rural West Tennessee to me, I think the return on investment is huge on how many lives we can impact and we can start keeping our population and then maybe grow it back to where it was because as everybody knows, we’ve lost a ton of population in rural west Tennessee. So I’m good with it. I see it as a good thing.”

Ford and South Korean battery maker SK Innovation announced the Blue Oval City project last month. The assembly plant will be built at the megasite about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Memphis, near the small town of Stanton in rural Haywood County.

Hurt said wastewater concerns are also expected to be brought up during the special session.

“The wastewater has been the hold up for a while there’s been a big question about the direction that goes,” Hurt said. “There was some money appropriated for it a couple of years ago. And then Governor Lee two years ago, kind of pressed pause to make sure we were spending taxpayer dollars the right way and making the right decision. So and then this summer, we heard he came out to the state building commission and recommended that we complete it.”

The project is expected to create about 5,800 new jobs at the West Tennessee megasite. Hurt said he felt the project could impact other parts of the state as well.

“They’re talking around 30,000 ancillary jobs, which are tier two and tier three companies that will locate throughout, you know, we hope we’ll keep those in Tennessee. I know some of them are already showing interest in areas of rural West Tennessee, but I know they’re also showing interest across the state moving east to keep their industry in Tennessee,” said Hurt.

*The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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