The Blessing (and Curse) of Mega-Factories on Real Estate and Economic Development
Jeff Huffman, mayor of nearby Tipton County, said, "There's never been a private, $5.6 billion investment in what's basically a 3,600-acre soybean field with no infrastructure around it." State officials say the project's impact will "Hit every community in West Tennessee and beyond." A local Tennessee TV station called it a "Once in a lifetime project," and Ford Electric Vehicle Footprint Manufacturing Director Greg Christensen said, "We think it's generational. We really believe generations will feel the impact of this." Christensen is correct, the impact will be massive. Supply chain realignment Ford's Blue Oval City in Tennessee is far from the only mega-factory sprouting up across the U.S. As automakers shift to electric vehicles, several massive EV and battery plants are being built in America just like in Stanton and Haywood County. Companies have seen supply chain shocks before, but the recent crisis has been so painful and prolonged that companies are rethinking their strategies and onshoring to locations in the U.S. The mega-factories are swallowing large chunks of property in rural, suburban, and "Exurban" areas so fast that Caldwell says companies and states are now challenged to find suitable big sites. Electric vehicle plants are very energy-intensive and can strain the electric grid. The result is a "War among the states" and what some say is a race to the bottom as states compete to draw companies' investment and offer higher and higher incentive packages. Despite the sometimes-unruly side effects of the mega-factories, Caldwell, the site selection professional, said most companies aim to be a positive force in the communities where they situate them. "Their baby is the project and people like me are the matchmaker. So, it doesn't make sense for these companies to do anything that would harm the communities." Caldwell added that the headwinds on the supply side for electric vehicles could cause problems down the line.