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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

Ford BlueOval City to boost jobs, economy in rural west TN

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Monday, September 25, 2023   

Most of the news about the automotive industry this month is focused on the United Auto Workers' strike against the Big Three automakers, but the story is different in rural West Tennessee.

A huge battery and vehicle manufacturing campus is being built in Stanton, with an expected economic impact of $5.6 billion. The nearly 6-square-mile Ford BlueOval City campus is expected to create 6,000 new local jobs.

Ethan Link, assistant business manager for the Southeast Laborers District Council, a division of Laborers International Union of North America, said the project is on track to open in 2025, and should be a major investment in the future of electric vehicles.

"They're building this enormous, and really, state-of-the-art Ford assembly plant to build the F-150, Lightning, as well as a battery plant right next to it, that is going to supply all the batteries they need for that," Link outlined. "We're really excited about the scale and the scope of what this project is going to mean for the new green economy."

A Tennessee College of Applied Technology school is also being planned near the site to train workers for the new jobs. He added the union workers building the plant are making more than $20 an hour and receiving health and pension benefits.

Rodney Bond, trainer from Brownsville with Laborers Southeast Training Fund, a joint fund of the union and participating contractors, is responsible for training the workers to lay asphalt for the plant.

"We did the casing for up under the building, and we poured the concrete for the 'BOS' (basic oxygen steelmaking) plant," Bond explained. "I'm glad and excited to have come here, it changed my life. I mean, it's a blessing to work with these guys."

Stacy Torrance, a laborer for Walbridge Construction Company, said in a region where there are few job opportunities, this has been a good one.

"Right now I work with a carpenter crew, so I tend to them," Torrance noted. "When I started, we were doing walls on body, then we moved to assembly. But now, we are pouring slabs, so we're doing all that; we form 'em up and they pour 'em. When I first came out there, I was new to the whole process, so I got to learn a lot. The pay and stuff is very good."

James DeWalt Sr., another laborer for Walbridge, performs maintenance at the site.

"I maintain the grounds in the building and make sure they stay safe," DeWalt emphasized. "Safety is their most important rule, so we all are safe. So, we try to make sure that everything's pretty safe and clean, so people can move around."

The union said a 10-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration class is also offered on job site safety, and there are first aid CPR courses and specific training for operating aerial lifts.

Disclosure: The Laborers International Union of North America contributes to our fund for reporting on Energy Policy, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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