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West Tennessee leaders participate in Ford Fly-In

SW TN leaders
West Tennessee municipal leaders participated in an inaugural Ford fly-in, taking them to destinations including Detroit and Dearborn, Mich. While there, local leadership toured a Ford plant and the Ford Museum as well as meetings with top level company management.

Local elected officials and state economic leaders recently participated in the inaugural “West Tennessee Ford Fly-In” to Detroit/Dearborn. 

Southwest Tennessee Development District Executive Director Joe Barker planned the fly-in as an opportunity to thank Ford Motor Company’s leadership for the decision to locate a new EV manufacturing plant in West Tennessee and for the more than 6,000 high-quality jobs the project will create for citizens in the region. 

Marianne Dunavant, BlueOval community relations manager, worked closely with officials in Michigan and at SWTDD to coordinate meetings and tours at Ford’s Dearborn campus. A primary focus for the trip was to bring together local elected officials and Ford management for in depth discussions.

West Tennessee officials tour the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Mich.

Fly-In attendees spent two full days (Jan. 31-Feb. 1) in Michigan. While there, participants toured the Ford Truck Plant at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, where the F-150 Lighting Truck is manufactured; explored the Ford Museum; and attended numerous meetings with upper management regarding the BlueOval City project. 

Ford management spoke in depth regarding the importance of surrounding communities in the success of the project and of the ways that West Tennessee communities can be prepared to attract the additional industrial suppliers for the Tier 1 manufacturing plants located in BlueOval’s Haywood County campus. Leadership emphasized that Ford’s BlueOval project roots will cause growth throughout West Tennessee—far beyond the facility presently under construction.

The executives outlined needed attributes of the industrial sites that the additional BOC suppliers will seek. Tennessee’s economic development professionals and TVA representatives added that communities will need effective marketing and a timely, rapid response when approached by any BOC industrial prospect. Additional insights shared by management were the need for housing and hotel sites -- and the importance of securing round-trip flights between Jackson and Detroit, as valuable corporate time is lost when executives must fly into and out of Memphis or Nashville.

The mayors participating in the fly-in were able to ask questions of Ford’s leadership and prompted informative discussions regarding sites they have available and strategies they’ll need when developing these sites to attract BlueOval supplier industries.

Ford discussion
Municipal leaders from West Tennessee participate in discussions with Ford management about 

“It was a privilege for SWTDD to collaborate with our West Tennessee leaders in visiting Ford World Headquarters in Michigan,” said Joe Barker. “It allowed us to thank Ford for locating in West Tennessee and to hear how we might assist them at the local level.”

Meetings with Chassen Haynes, Regional Manager of Ford Government Relations, prompted discussions regarding education and the need for regional educational institutions and Ford to partner together in providing/developing curriculum and programs with the two-fold purpose of keeping young talent in West Tennessee while advancing the workforce’s skillsets. Haynes shared that Ford is currently engaged in meetings with several universities and schools to work in this direction.

Both Ford’s management and fly-in attendees agreed there is a need to meet on a regular basis in West Tennessee to keep the lines of communication open, share updates, work together in a positive and forward direction, and to wisely prepare communities for industrial and residential expansion.

The West Tennessee leaders participating in the Ford Fly-In were: Whiteville Mayor Gene Bowden, Ripley Mayor Craig Fitzhugh, Lexington Mayor Jeff Griggs, Covington Mayor Jan Hensley, Bolivar Mayor Julian McTizic, Somerville Mayor Ronnie Neill, Bartlett Mayor David Parson, Lakeland Mayor Josh Roman, Stanton Mayor Allen Sterbinsky, TVA West Region Vice President Mark Yates, TVA Government Relations Manager Paul Phelan, Southwest TN Regional Director for TNECD Tracey Exum, Brownsville-Haywood County Economic Development Director Aaron Stewart, Covington Chief of Staff Jason Fleming, Midsouth TN Development District Director Anna McQuiston, SWTDD Executive Direcotr Joe Barker, SWTDD Local Government & Special Projects Coordinator Jill Holland, and SWTDD Information Technology Manager Charley Brown.