If it feels like people have been talking about the Memphis Regional Megasite for more than a decade, it’s because they have.
The idea of an industrial megasite in West Tennessee began to take form 15 years ago.
In 2009, the state bought a 4,100-acre piece of land in Haywood County just off Interstate 40 (14 miles from Covington) and discussions and rumors continued for the next 12 years.
Four years ago, Toyota/Mazda nearly committed to building a $1.6 billion car plant there, but eventually went elsewhere.
Tuesday morning at Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, the 15-year plan finally came to fruition when it was announced that Ford Motor Company will build a $5.6 billion facility that will manufacture all-electric F-series trucks and batteries.
“Good things come to those who wait,” Gov. Bill Lee said with a smile during an elaborate press conference attended by about 400 people, including the CEO of Ford and executives of SK Innovation, a South Korean company that will be involved in the project.
Bob Rolfe, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said 33,000 construction jobs with a nearly $2 billion payroll will be created during construction. Once it’s complete, hopefully by 2025, he said about 27,000 (direct and indirect) jobs will be created with an annual payroll of $1.8 billion. The gross domestic product is expected to be about $3.5 billion per year.
It’s the largest investment ever made in Tennessee.
Tipton County Executive Jeff Huffman has been a member of the Megasite Authority since it all began.
“It’s like a thousand-pound weight has been lifted off you,” Huffman said at Tuesday’s press conference. “You finally have something here. Everybody’s been going through what I call Megasite fatigue. Now is the payoff.”
He called it an “economic tsunami” that will sweep through West Tennessee and Tipton County and said middle class workers will be the main beneficiary of the plant.
“At the end of the day, this is going to be a real boon for working people, folks who are middle income whose income hasn’t really increased to the extent it has for people with higher incomes,” Huffman said. “This is going to be a real opportunity for working folks to do a lot better in the middle class. I’m delighted that it’s Ford Motor Company. The scale of this thing is just off the charts, more than we could have hoped for.”
Covington Mayor Justin Hanson, who also attended the event, said the Ford plant will have long-lasting positive effects on the area.
“This is absolutely going to change the footprint of West Tennessee forever,” Hanson said. “This is a forever change for us, for the positive, with jobs, with investment in the community. It’s a win, win, win. This is an unbelievable day, not just for West Tennessee, but the Mid-South. It says a lot when a company like Ford makes its largest investment in West Tennessee. This is the largest investment ever made in Tennessee and it’s 12, 15 miles from Covington.”
“This is no doubt a legacy day for the state of Tennessee,” Lee said. “A project of this magnitude could go anywhere in the world, but they chose Tennessee.”
The governor also announced a trade school would be built at Blue Oval City that would train students in automotive manufacturing.
According to a press release, Blue Oval City will be designed to be the largest, most advanced and most efficient automotive production campus in Ford’s history. The campus will include the Ford assembly plant, a supplier park and a battery manufacturing plant operated by BlueOvalSK, Ford and SK Innovation’s joint venture. The site will become a vertically integrated ecosystem with key suppliers and battery manufacturing on the same campus where Ford will assemble next generation all-electric F-Series trucks.