Tennessee lawmakers to consider $900 million package for Ford project

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks during a presentation on the planned factory to build electric F-Series trucks and the batteries to power future electric Ford and Lincoln vehicles Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks during a presentation on the planned factory to build electric F-Series trucks and the batteries to power future electric Ford and Lincoln vehicles Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE - Tennessee is committing to spend nearly $900 million on incentives, infrastructure work and a new technical college as its part of an agreement with Ford Motor Co. and South Korea battery maker SK Innovation for a multibillion battery plant and assembly facility in rural West Tennessee.

While it was known the state was offering the companies $500 million in incentives, a far fuller picture of Gov. Bill Lee and the state's commitment was revealed late Friday afternoon when the Lee administration's actual bills were introduced in the General Assembly.

It comes following Lee, Ford and SK's announcement in September of the biggest such investment in Tennessee history. The companies have agreed to invest $5.6 billion to make electric-powered pickups and employ over 5,700 workers to produce the all-electric F-series trucks in what is being dubbed Blue Oval City.

The operation will be located in Stanton, in Haywood County, northeast of Memphis. It's seen as a game-changer for that area of rural West Tennessee, a region that has seen population and job losses over the past decade. When Lee ran for governor in 2018, he pledged to work to help the state's rural areas.

House Bill 8002, sponsored by House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, lays out in detail what Tennessee has agreed to in its largest deal ever and what state lawmakers will consider in a three-day special session called by the governor which will start Monday. Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, will carry the Senate companion bill which as of early Friday evening had not yet been introduced.

Lee spokesperson Laine Arnold said Friday evening in response to Times Free Press questions that the administration had planned to file the legislation Monday but was informed by House officials it needed to be filed Friday to ensure readiness.

Arnold said some provisions could undergo revisions but noted the outlines will largely remain the same.

A separate bill, House Bill 8001, creates a new regional development authority, administratively attached to the Tennessee Department of General Services, called the Megasite Authority of West Tennessee.

Money breakdown

In addition to the $500 million in incentives for Ford and SK Innovation, the state is funneling another $138.21 million through the Department of Economic and Community Development. That's for infrastructure, demolition of existing structures and "all related work."

That includes funding for equipment acquisition and purchasing property, site preparation, construction and equipment for sites and buildings and infrastructure improvements including sewer, water, a wastewater utility and rail infrastructure.

A $40 million spend is for a new Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Haywood County. Lee has called it a "first-of-its-kind trade school." It will be built at the megasite and serve as a training ground for Ford and SK Innovation.

A separate section of the same bill appropriates $200 million through the state Department of Transportation for a series of major road projects. The list includes a new interchange on Interstate 40, road construction of State Route 194 from State Route 59 to State Route 1 and a connector road to State Route 222 in Fayette, Haywood and Tipton counties.

Another section provides $5 million for consulting services for local governments and legal services for the Megasite Authority of West Tennessee.

Add them all up and it comes to $883.21 million.

The legislation's language also appropriates funds to cover the legislature's costs for the special session.

House Bill 8001, which deals with the creation of the new megasite authority, says the intent is to "promote economic development at or within the megasite, to generate high quality jobs at the megasite, surrounding areas, and this state, and to encourage and promote development of manufacturing, warehouse, distribution, office, restaurant, retail, hotel, motel, communications systems, recycling, utilities, educational institutions, workforce housing, financial and recreational activities, other similar uses, and customary uses accessory or ancillary to such promotion."

That's in addition to establishing the authority for the purposes of "developing, incentivizing, operating, managing, and promoting the megasite."

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.

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