NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Big business will take place at the Capitol next week as lawmakers prepare to write a multimillion dollar incentives package for the Ford Motor Company to build a mega-site in the Memphis area. Legislators will consider spending nearly $500 million for the Ford investment.
The prospect of a West Tennessee mega-site has been long anticipated.
“This project was originally started by Governor Phil Bredesen’s administration, the state has poured in an enormous amount of money into the mega-site and it’s been a long time coming,” said Beth Harwell, the former Speaker of the Tennessee House.
Now the General Assembly will be charged with securing the deal which will include Ford’s Blue Oval City that’s expected to bring 5,800 jobs to the Memphis-area site.
“It was a difficult piece of land to develop, and then the other issue we have is the workforce available, and then even the housing available in that rural west Tennessee area, so it has been a long process,” she said.
Harwell, who has seen the mega-site considered and debated for years, said the General Assembly will have a lot on their hands to discuss.
“Well, I think some members feel strongly that this is labeled corporate welfare that we’re picking winners and losers in the private sector, and is this really fair for the existing companies we don’t give these special privileges to.”
On the other hand, the first female speaker of the Tennessee House said some members will see a strategic business development opportunity.
“This is a part of our state that has been underdeveloped, they will say they’ve been ignored,” Harwell said. “They’ve been trying for some time to develop a workforce and have something that will bring jobs and money and revenue into those rural counties.”
She adds it will be important that members be able to recoup money if Ford doesn’t live up to its part of the deal with a “claw back” clause.
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“Again, some taxpayers simply don’t like these types of things, and I understand their concerns, but if we’re going to do it as a state we better make sure that the taxpayers get everything we have promised them,” Harwell said.
The former leader said she hopes the Legislature will make Tennessee workers a priority.
“The people that are currently in these small counties would hopefully have first dibs at the jobs,” Harwell said. “I hope the General Assembly will look at that we don’t need to bring a lot more people into Tennessee we need to employ the people that are currently here.”
The special session is set to kick off on Oct. 18 and is slated to last three days.