Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks to people gathered at the Middle Put-in on the Ocoee River. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee visited the Ocoee River, on June 4, 2021, to celebrate the impact of tourism and also in celebration of the state's 225th birthday.

Tennessee to invest in Memphis megasite

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday that the state will pour $52 million into building a complicated wastewater discharge pipeline into a sprawling site that has failed to land potential tenants due to a lack of infrastructure buildout.

The Memphis Regional Megasite, located about 40 miles (65 kilometers) east of downtown Memphis, has already received more than $170 million in state funding. However, state officials have long warned that more money is needed to make the nearly 6.5 square miles (17 square kilometers) attractive enough for prospective investors.

Officials say construction on the wastewater pipeline project likely won't start until next year.

"I have directed the Department of Economic and Community Development to aggressively market the Megasite and offer enhanced incentives to companies demonstrating a long-term desire to call Haywood County home," Lee said in a statement.

Lee's administration had commissioned an independent review of the megasite. The report, released Tuesday, found that along with a lack of utility service, a lack of available workforce and a low quality of life have also hindered securing a tenant.

"Key criteria are just that — they are key to the prospect and necessary for selection. Fixing one will not resolve the deficiency," the report stated.

"Overcoming issues related to proximity and quality of life are more challenging areas to address," the report added. "For this reason, economic development organizations typically assemble sites within driving distance of a major metropolitan areas with attractive quality of life scores."

According to economic development officials, the megasite's 4,100 acres (1,660 hectares) would be enough to include the combined footprints of several of the state's largest plants, including the 715-acre (290-hectare) Nissan complex in Smyrna, the 352-acre (140-hectare) Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga and the 469-acre (190-hectare) Hankook Tire plant in Clarksville.

In 2017, the site failed to land a new auto plant planned by a joint venture of Toyota and Mazda. A year prior, the Tennessee site was one of two finalists when Sentury Tire Americas was looking to build a $530 million plant. The company ultimately chose a site in Georgia.

Most coal plants lose profitability

Most of the coal plants that feed the biggest U.S. power grid will soon no longer be economic to run after prices in a key auction plunged to the lowest in 11 years.

Of the 44 coal-fired power plants on the grid operated by PJM Interconnection LLC, 32 will be unprofitable in 2023, the first full year that will be affected by results released last week for its capacity auction. That represents 38 gigawatts of capacity out of 47 total gigawatts supplied by coal, and is quadruple the number of money-losing coal facilities now, according to a BloombergNEF analysis on Monday.

The PJM auction is an important event for the industry as it affects future revenue for utilities that agree to keep capacity on standby in case extra power is needed. Coal was the only fuel that declined in the auction — a sign that it's increasingly uncompetitive compared to cheaper and cleaner fuels like natural gas and renewables, which both saw significant increases.


Lordstown EV maker struggles to survive

Startup commercial electric vehicle maker Lordstown Motors says it may not be in business a year from now as it tries to secure funding to start full production of an electric pickup truck.

In a quarterly regulatory filing Tuesday, Lordstown said the $587 million it had on hand as of March 31 isn't enough to start commercial production and begin selling the full-size pickup, called the Endurance.

"These conditions raise substantial doubt regarding our ability to continue as a going concern for a period of at least one year," the company said in the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Shares of the company, which is set up in a now-closed General Motors plant east of Cleveland, fell 16.2% to close Tuesday at $11.22. The lost another 3% in after-hours trading.

On May 24, CEO Steve Burns warned that production could be cut by over half to only 1,000 vehicles this year unless Lordstown raised an undisclosed amount of new capital.


Job openings surge to record 9.3 million

U.S. employers posted a record 9.3 million job openings in April as the U.S. economy reopens at break-neck speed.

Openings were up 12% from 8.3 million in March. But employers hired just 6.1 million, up 1% from March, according to a Labor Department report out Tuesday, suggesting that job vacancies are opening faster than companies can fill them.

Hotels and restaurants, reopening after being forced to close or curb hours during the coronavirus pandemic, reported the biggest increase in job openings. The number of Americans quitting their job rose 11% to almost 4 million in April, the highest figure in records going back to 2000.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner