#138 – Inside Our Industry – How will BlueOval City’s arrival impact the labor market in West Tennessee?

Posted on | Inside Our Industry

How does a region and its communities plan for a mega-project? With BlueOval City coming to West Tennessee, many community leaders are meeting and planning to prepare for the project. Issues such as the local labor market will be key. Following, in part, shares some of the concerns of those leaders.

How will BlueOval City’s arrival impact the labor market in West Tennessee?
Omer Yusef  |  Memphis Commercial Appeal  |  Feb. 22, 2023

Several people who played a key part in bringing BlueOval City to West Tennessee — and who are also responsible for planning for its long-term impact — gathered in Memphis for panel discussions on the project Tuesday morning.

The Urban Land Institute of Memphis hosted the event at Shelby Farms’ FedEx Event Center. Ford and SK On plan to invest $5.6 billion for BlueOval City to produce electric trucks and batteries at the 3,600-acre site. The project is expected to create about 5,800 jobs, and production is scheduled to begin in 2025.

Greater Jackson Chamber CEO and President Kyle Spurgeon, HTL Advantage President and CEO Mark Herbison and TVA Regional Economic Development Specialist Aaron Stewart recalled the journey and joy after securing the development for Haywood County in September 2021.

The four mayors whose towns and cities are expected to be most impacted by BlueOval City also spoke about the challenges planning for a project of this magnitude, which is likely to be accompanied by significant growth and population increases. Stanton (pop. 415) Mayor Allan Sterbinsky, Brownsville (pop. 9,661) Mayor Bill Rawls, Lakeland (pop.13,805) Mayor Josh Roman and Arlington (pop. 14,448) Mayor Mike Wissman participated in the second panel.

How Ford and SK On’s arrival impacts the local labor market

One of the common concerns relayed to West Tennessee officials by existing companies is the impact Ford and SK On’s arrival will have on the labor market. This does not include future suppliers that will take up space at BlueOval City and surrounding communities in the coming years.

Spurgeon said one of the ways to address that is communicating and keeping relationships intact with companies that were lured to the area prior to BlueOval City.

While all four mayors spoke generally about the positive impact BlueOval City will have on their communities while trying to maintain what makes their towns unique, one of the areas Rawls wants to address in Brownsville is temporary and permanent affordable housing.

Rawls said he wants those who may feel the financial pressure to sell or leave their rental home or apartment to remain in the community.

Brownsville has a population of nearly 10,000 and is Haywood County’s largest city. It’s about 15 miles away from the Stanton site.

There is also the challenge of adding to existing housing with thousands of construction workers descending on-site in the short term and future BlueOval City employees expected to be in the area long-term.

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