Economic Development: Challenges and Exciting Opportunities

Brooxie Carlton Offers Information, Inspiration and Insight at Monthly Membership Meeting

Brooxie Carlton, Assistant Commissioner of Community and Rural Development for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, addressed the Monthly Membership Meeting of the Collierville Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, September 14, at First Baptist Church of Collierville. The luncheon was expertly catered by Bailey’s Executive Catering.

Prior to Carlton’s presentation, recognition of the 2022 academic year began in earnest and in stellar fashion with the introduction of Collierville High School’s Student of the Month, Marissa Lu. Collierville High School Principal Roger Jones noted the many accolades and honors Lu has achieved, including a weighted GPA of 4.83, becoming a National Merit Semi-Finalist and being noted as an AP Scholar with Distinction. Ms. Lu is more than academics, as she is an accomplished pianist and flutist with the Memphis Youth Orchestra. She is also actively engaged in organizations representing Asian American youth. Ms. Lu plans to double major in STEM and music when she attends college.

Maureen Yarborough, CEO of Collierville’s Signs Matter and a Chamber board member, related a recent trip to the state capitol. Chamber members had a chance to visit Nashville thanks to the sponsorship of state representative Kevin Vaughan. Yarborough shared a video which detailed highlights of the visit.

Mike Hamby of Your Personal Auto Dealer and Smith Imports, the sponsor of the day’s luncheon, offered a brief overview of the company, detailing the company’s focus on customer satisfaction and their ability to go to extreme lengths to locate vehicles for customers.

Dawn Graeter, CEO of Southern Security, the sponsor of the Monthly Membership Meetings, announced a major expansion in the Collierville community, with the company’s 10,000 square ft. building coming soon to the town.

Brooxie Carlton took the podium and outlined the primary services offered by the Office of Community and Rural Development, including both general business development and rural issues such as site development, main street and downtown development, federal funding into broadband expansion and small business development and entrepreneurship. She noted, “Community development leads to economic development.”

While Carlton noted last year’s impressive statistics, with 130 projects, expanded job opportunities, and significantly increased capital expenditures, she also indicated that 2022 stats might fall short from the previous years, as 2021 saw a boom as we came out of the throes of COVID.

Carlton focused much of her talk on the strength of West Tennessee with business recruitment and zeroed in on the development of the Memphis Regional Megasite hear Stanton, TN, soon to be the location of Ford’s Blue Oval City, the future home of the largest electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in the country. The creation of this plant will reflect a $5.6 B investment with a $1.2 B economic impact. There will be some 33,000 construction jobs, and 5,000 on-site at one time during the height of construction of this carbon-neutral, “green” facility.

As the nation pivots to the expansion of electric vehicle production and use, Carlton noted some challenges now being faced and planned for by the state, including the exponential expansion of vehicle charging stations throughout the state’s highway and park system.

The official ground breaking of the Ford plant is scheduled for this fall, with the first hires being engineers. Production will begin in 2025.  The state will assist with planning services and with the many challenges of building such a plant: population growth [Stanton, TN is expected to grow from a current population of 450 to 10,000 by 2028]; water-sewer systems; security of the supply chain, and workforce recruitment and development [seen as the number one need by Ford]. According to Carlton, there will be some 600 “competencies” or skill areas required, with 450 now available in the area’s training and educational institutions.

Carlton’s presentation included informative and inspiring video productions highlighting West Tennessee’s corporate headquarters and the promising future of products such as Ford batteries “Built Ford Tough, Mastered in Tennessee.”