Four names have been confirmed for the newly created Megasite Authority of West Tennessee board — a body tasked with overseeing Ford’s $5.6 billion project in Haywood County.
The latest appointments include Brownsville-based attorney Michael Banks and Evelyn Robertson, former director of the Southwest Tennessee Development District. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally announced the appointments Nov. 19.
“The Megasite Authority (of West Tennessee) has tremendous powers given to it under the legislation,” Banks said. “We’ve got to make sure the Authority gets the deal done for Ford. But we’ve got to keep in mind the impact that any decisions the Megasite Authority makes they’re gonna have on the town of Stanton, Haywood County and Brownsville and for that matter, smaller municipalities in Tipton and Fayette County as well.”
Eleven members will govern the Megasite Authority of West Tennessee, up from the seven proposed originally. They include the governor serving as an ex officio, two appointees by the governor, two by the house speaker, two by the lieutenant governor, one joint appointee by both speakers, and commissioners of Economic and Community Development, Finance and Administration, and General Services. Those commissioners could also designate someone in their place.
Legislation passed during the special session in Nashville in October resulted in the authority's formation. The Megasite Authority’s purpose is to “develop, operate, manage, incentivize and promote the Megasite,” according to the state.
“The historic investment by Ford Motor Company in West Tennessee will bring much-needed prosperity to a region that has been previously left behind,” McNally said in a statement announcing the appointments of Banks and Robertson. “The Megasite of West Tennessee’s Board of Directors will be critical to the future of the Megasite and West Tennessee. I am confident these highly qualified individuals will bring great experience and perspective to the board.”
In late September, Ford officials announced plans, along with South Korean company SK innovation, for a $5.6 billion project to produce electric trucks and electric vehicle batteries at the megasite. The project could create about 5,800 jobs, and local and state officials believe it could transform the West Tennessee region.
Construction on the project, called Blue Oval City, could begin in 2022, project manager Director Greg Christensen told The Commercial Appeal. Christensen is Ford's Electric Vehicle Footprint Director.
Ford expects the plant to open in 2025.
In October, the Tennessee legislature voted in favor of a $884 million incentive package for Ford at the same special session in Nashville during which it passed legislation creating the Megasite Authority.
As of Friday, there have been four appointments to the Megasite Authority, as well as an authority CEO. Lee selected Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Transportation Clay Bright as the Megasite Authority’s CEO. Bright has since stepped down from his position with TDOT, a role he was appointed to in 2019.
Previously announced appointees to the board of directors include Charlie Tuggle, executive vice president and general counsel for First Horizon National Corp., and Tipton County Mayor Jeff Huffman.
“You can throw the industrial development playbook out the window on this one,” Huffman said about what’s ahead. “There’s never been anything like this in a location like this.”
Banks is the first Megasite Authority appointee to reside in Haywood County, where the Ford project is located. In addition to the Banks Law Firm, he serves as attorney for the city of Brownsville, town of Stanton and Haywood County.
He’s appreciative of what the project could mean for West Tennessee, but also acknowledges that the area will never be the same.
“We have a tremendous amount of work and strategizing and thinking that’s now going to have to happen … To our credit, we’re doing it,” Banks said. “It’s just a lot that goes into it.”
The Tennessean contributed to the reporting of this story.
Omer Yusuf covers the Ford project in Haywood County, residential real estate and tourism for The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached via email Omer.Yusuf@commercialappeal.com or followed on Twitter @OmerAYusuf.
Megasite Authority of West Tennessee
Former TDOT commissioner Clay Bright has been named Megasite Authority CEO.
Four appointments have been made to the board so far. They are:
Tipton County Mayor Jeff Huffman, served as mayor for more than 35 years
Banks Law Firm attorney Michael Banks, attorney based in Brownsville
Charlie Tuggle, First Horizon executive vice president and general counsel
Evelyn Robertson, former Southwest Tennessee Development District director
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Ford project in Tennessee: Who is on the megasite authority board?