This workforce will have to be recruited remotely. The nearest population centers are Memphis, 50 miles to the southwest, and Jackson, Tenn., Which has 68,000 people living 40 miles to the east. The region is largely agricultural, posing a housing issue for the 5,700 factory workers and their families, as well as for construction workers in the meantime.
“Housing, for me, is going to be a critical issue for the construction of this campus,” Berryman said. “Jackson will provide some of the housing needs, and Memphis will provide a lot of it. It will just depend on where people want to live, including construction workers.”
TVA, a multi-state economic development and utilities agency, has been a pioneer in providing pre-certified, barrier-free megasites to recruit large auto factories, and the West Tennessee Megasite has been one of the first. Over the past two decades, TVA’s top hires have included Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Toyota in Tupelo, Mississippi, and Mazda-Toyota in Huntsville, Ala.
Blue Oval City will be more than a vehicle assembly plant. Ford intends the project to showcase its rapidly evolving strategy for producing electric vehicles. The site will house a large-scale battery manufacturing operation in partnership with Korean supplier SK Innovation. Equally important, the campus will include a technology training center that will train thousands of workers in the art of electric vehicles. Details of the training plan are not fully public, but the center is expected to provide skills certification for technologies that will apply across Ford’s emerging electric vehicle supply chain.
Berryman believes the influx of construction workers and personnel, technical training center participants, suppliers and other vendors will drive economic changes across the region.