Why is southern Middle Tennessee a hub for manufacturing?

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Some of the world’s largest automakers are making big moves in Columbia’s own backyard, home to the General Motors Spring Hill plant, established in 1990.

In late September, the Ford Motor Company revealed plans to build a battery plant and truck assembly plant in the community of Stanton, western Tennessee, outside of Memphis, as part of the development. of the Memphis Regional Megasite. Ford and SK Innovation will invest $ 5.6 billion to build a 3,600-acre mega campus called Blue Oval City in Haywood County, where production of the next generation of all-electric F-Series trucks will begin in 2025.

Following:Electrifying industry: investments in electric vehicles in Tennessee to bring the future home

Following:General Motors announces electric vehicle battery plant in Spring Hill

Following:$ 2 billion investment secures GM’s future in Spring Hill

The move adds to the state’s already thriving manufacturing industry, which stretches from Columbia to Memphis. The region can look to Maury County for a glimpse of how such an industrial presence can shape a city and its surroundings.

“This is a watershed moment for Tennessee as we lead the future of the automotive industry and advanced manufacturing,” Governor Bill Lee said recently of Ford’s announcement.

Maury County has already seen its share of watershed moments this year – as the fastest growing county in Tennessee, according to the 2020 U.S. Census and ranked No. 1 in inbound investment in the state by the group of SmartAsset reflection.

Following:Maury County Ranks # 1 for Inbound Investment in State, Study Finds

County leaders vote on local prosperity

Plant manager Paul Wayne poses at a former Union Carbide graphite manufacturing plant in Columbia on Tuesday, November 13, 2019. The plant, which has been dormant for three years, has been acquired by Mersen, an international manufacturer which promises to create 100 jobs at the closed plant.

In Maury County, Ryder System, Inc., which supports GM’s operations at the Spring Hill plant, is the county’s second-largest employer after GM. GM’s presence also highlighted the need for nearby sourcing companies.

The company is a transportation logistics and supply chain solutions operation that employs more than 1,000 unionized workers, contributing to GM’s team of more than 3,200 workers.

“As a leading third-party logistics provider for the automotive industry, Ryder manages the operations of some of the world’s largest automakers,” Steve Sensing, president of global supply chain solutions for Ryder, told The Daily Herald. .

“In this context, we regularly recruit and train people on behalf of our clients. With the roots of the auto industry in Tennessee stretching back to the 1980s, we are fortunate to have access to a workforce that has four decades of experience and is more than three times the size of the national average. “

Ryder continues to invest in the region by recruiting workers and providing training programs for the next generation.

“And, as automakers continue to invest in the region, Ryder continues to invest in training and retention programs to ensure we have the best possible workforce for our customers,” said said Sensing.

Already established as an auto giant, Maury County is also making its mark throughout the manufacturing industry, which is a major factor in shaping its future.

Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, who says he is focused on building businesses and industries in Maury County, praises the latest $ 4.3 billion additions to the GM factory.

“We are a low-tax state and a state where the right to work is guaranteed,” Ogles said.

He explained that state workers gain a good reputation and build their credibility with some of the biggest companies in the world.

“The people of Tennessee are known for their work ethic,” Ogles said. “We are a friendly people and all of these factors are important whether you are a General Motors or a Ford. “

News of previous successes is starting to spread.

“The fact that you can operate inexpensively and that you will have hard workers, if you invest millions of dollars, you have to make sure that there is a return on that investment,” Ogles said. “And Tennessee has turned out to be one of the best states in the country to do it.

Senator Joey Hensley R-Hohenwald said the state’s focus on savings also serves as a focal point for large corporations.

“Tennessee is generally a fiscally responsible state,” Hensley said. “It’s a rule of law at work, people love to live here and businesses love to do business with us here. We have low taxes. When you look at other states like California, the cost of doing business is astronomical. They can do business here a lot cheaper and get good workers. “

Hensley’s claim is true with the May relocation of JC Ford’s headquarters from California to Columbia, investing $ 30 million and creating 210 new jobs. The tortilla maker, which has helped produce products like Doritos, has chosen Columbia as its next home due to lower taxes.

Connie Ruhe, 88, matriarch of the JC Ford Company family, said she told her son Scott Ruhe, company president, “you should jump on it” by buying a manufacturing plant in Maury County .

“It’s about the low taxes, the people and the schools that brought us here,” Ruhe said.

Following:“The Secret Is Out”: How Maury County Became Tennessee’s Fastest Growing County

Hensley said the absence of a state income tax also appeals to businesses.

“It’s a bigger deal than most people realize,” Hensley said. “They can get help from the state, and the counties and cities are ready to help. We want businesses to come here.

A booming manufacturing hub

Maury County has attracted 37 economic projects, creating more than 6,400 jobs and $ 5.5 billion in capital investment since 2014.

Of those projects, nearly $ 4.3 billion has been generated in the past 18 months, following GM’s two announcements regarding the creation of the luxury electric SUV, the Lyriq ($ 2 billion) and construction the 2.8 million square foot Ultium battery installation. ($ 2.3 billion) on Nashville Highway at the plant site.

Following:Maury County Ranks # 1 for Inbound Investment in State, Study Finds

Following:“The Secret Is Out”: How Maury County Became Tennessee’s Fastest Growing County

Over the past five years, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development has supported nearly 20 economic development projects in Maury County, representing approximately 4,000 jobs and over $ 3 billion in capital investments.

The plans include the 2015 announcement of Landmark Ceramics’ $ 80 million project, the construction of a now fully operational 600,000 square foot facility on 96 acres in Maury County, creating 180 new jobs.

In 2019, Mersen, which works with companies in the energy, electronics, transport, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and processes sectors, opened an operation. The company said it would invest up to $ 65 million and hire 100 local employees, waking up part of a vacant Union Carbide facility that previously employed generations of workers in Colombia.

The facility is the world’s 10th US site for the manufacturer.

At the same time, the $ 60.9 million manufacturing plant of Japanese auto parts maker Fuel Total Systems opened in the Cherry Glen Industrial Park in Mt. Pleasant, creating 150 new jobs in the area.

The plant remains the largest addition to the Maury County-owned industrial complex, which opened its first 50,000 square foot facility in August 2016.

An established workforce

Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance chairman Wil Evans spends much of his time facilitating deals that bring big companies to the area and the lucrative jobs that go with them.

“There are a lot of factors at play,” Evans said. “Tennessee is a very business friendly state. Over the past 10 years, Nashville has really grown and established itself, as has the greater region. We are still an affordable option in the region while providing a high quality of life and a low tax burden.

He said the quality of the region’s workforce has also been a major factor in helping to attract businesses to the region, retain them and attract more industry giants.

“We have been very advantageous in the workforce we have here, while also being able to take advantage of the Nashville market,” Evans said.

Bob Rolfe, commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Economic Development, said Ford’s recent announcement only adds to the state’s burgeoning auto industry, which will be felt statewide.

“The ripple effect resulting from these projects will be transformational for our state, particularly western Tennessee, and we are very grateful for this huge investment and the addition of two great global brands,” said Rolfe.

Contact Mike Christen at mchristen@c-dh.net. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeChristenCDH and on Instagram @michaelmarco. Please consider supporting his work and that of other Daily Herald journalists by subscribing to the publication.


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