BlueOval human resources director Neva Burke speaks to a group of Brighton High School students last week. Photo by Jeff Ireland

Officials with BlueOval City have been marketing their new $5.6 billion electric truck and battery plant in Haywood County pretty heavily over the last few months, and that only figures to increase in the coming months.

Evidence of that was on display last Thursday inside the Brighton High School library when BlueOval human resources director Neva Burke spoke to about 40 BHS students as well as teachers, administrators and Tipton County Schools Board of Education employees.

Burke, who has spoken at several schools around West Tennessee over the past few weeks, said the idea was to familiarize young people with the plan and explain that there “is a very important revolution happening right in your backyard.”


During a video she showed an older man in a cowboy hat looked over his shoulder at dusk as a line of headlights approached. The imagery was not subtle. The future is coming whether you’re ready or not.

“Let me tell you: Electric cars are the way of the future,” Burke said. “You should be excited to have this right here. It’s a great opportunity for someone like yourselves to get involved in the auto industry.”

Burke said when the plant is complete in 2025 there will be approximately 6,000 new jobs as well as new hotels, housing and infrastructure. She described the manufacturing jobs as “probably not like the ones your parents may have had. They’re much more technical … People come into Ford with high school diplomas and end up as engineers.”

Of course the students had questions. Burke squashed one that was surely coming by saying compensation numbers were not going to be announced until next year, but there were plenty of others.

Carson Nelms asked how current power grids were going to handle millions of electric vehicles driving around. Mari Leonard asked about the lack of charging stations in Tennessee. Emmanuel Yancey asked about infrastructure and Logon Kosowski wanted to know if local suppliers were going to be used.

All excellent questions. For the most part Burke, a seasoned PR pro, deflected the questions and went back her theme: The future is coming. You should embrace it.

“We’re not here just to create jobs,” Burke said, “We’re here to embed in the community.”

Jeff Ireland
Author: Jeff Ireland