Martin Business Association looks to the future after visit from BlueOval City rep

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GROWING PARTNERS - Members of the Martin Business Association recently heard a presentation by BlueOval City Government Relations Manager Marianne Dunavant during the group’s Lunch and Learn monthly event. Pictured are (from left) Weakley County Economic Development Director Justin Crice, UT Martin interim Chancellor Dr. Philip Cavalier, Dunavant, Tennessee’s 76th District State Rep. Tandy Darby and Martin Business Association President Landy Fuqua.

By Sabrina Bates

MVP Regional News Editor

There are approximately 80 miles between the Martin community and Stanton, the site of the largest, single-investment project in Tennessee. BlueOval City is on track to employ about 6,000 people in West Tennessee’s Haywood County in 2025. People in Martin are watching and waiting for the impact this regional project will have in Weakley County as Ford Motor Co. prepares to roll out its electric truck line.

As Ford and its South Korean partner, SK On – the company that will be responsible for manufacturing and recycling the truck’s electric batteries – continues its construction at the site in southwest Tennessee, Martin business owners and leaders are paving their way as community partners for the venture.

The Martin Business Association recently hosted BlueOval City Government Relations Manager Marianne Dunavant during the organization’s Lunch and Learn session that featured a packed house. 

Dunavant announced Ford’s electric-truck line, known as T3, is on track for production in late 2025. Already, the company is working with higher-learning partners, such as the University of Tennessee at Martin, to help build the future workforce. The production facility is the first of its kind to have projected zero waste to landfills.

“You’re going to see people who may start on the line, but end up as engineers,” Dunavant told MBA members.

She spoke of how Ford is seeing the potential challenges for such a large workforce in the form of transportation and childcare. Dunavant mentioned BOC will have a potential YMCA facility on site to help families who may struggle with obtaining child care. She also touched on the potential for satellite buses to shuttle people to and from work at BlueOval. Ford worked with the Tennessee Department of Transportation on a recent transit study for providing transportation of workers within an 11-county radius of BOC. 

SK On is also constructing twin electric-battery plants in Glendale, Ky., which is approximately 215 miles northeast of Martin. 

Dunavant also mentioned the Tennessee College of Applied Technology campus that is also under construction at BlueOval City. Initially, the TCAT will serve as an onboarding and training school for workers at BOC. 

When asked what impact this project will have on Martin and Weakley County, Dunavant said there are companies that will be suppliers of the Tennessee and Kentucky production sites that will need to locate within a reasonable distance for transporting supplies. Known as Tier 2 and 3 suppliers, these manufacturers are currently scouting locations to plant roots.

To prepare for BOC and SK On suppliers, Dunavant said they are advising municipalities to prepare for growth by evaluating their city charters and planning regulations to maximize future benefits.

In the famous words of Ford Motor Co.’s founder, Henry Ford, “Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” 

The MBA follows that motto as it comes together monthly, keeps together by supporting one another and is successful by working together as the organization continues to grow. Benefits of joining include social media and website promotions, along with educational events for its members.

The next MBA event is a breakfast set for July 11 on the topic of business law. To learn more about the Martin Business Association, visit martinbusinessassociation.com. The organization is a partnership between the City of Martin, UT Martin and UTM’s REED Center.

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