Vanderbilt University, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Nashville Electric Service (NES), Duck River Electric Membership Corporation (DREMC), and Silicon Ranch Corporation broke ground today on a new solar farm that is now under construction in Bedford County, Tennessee. The 35-megawatt (MWAC) Vanderbilt I Solar Farm is expected to begin producing power before the end of 2022, bringing new renewable generation to the Tennessee Valley.

Originally announced in January 2020, the partnership was the first of its kind under TVA’s nationally-recognized Green Invest Program, which matches demand for green power from diverse business, industrial and organizational customers with new utility-scale solar projects located within the Valley. The award-winning renewable energy program offers customers an effective, timely, and cost-competitive solution to meet their sustainability goals in a way that benefits the broader community.

“Today marks a milestone for the Tennessee Valley as we break ground on the first project ever developed under TVA’s Green Invest program, and we are thrilled to be doing so with Vanderbilt University, our long-term partners NES and DREMC, and our local renewable energy partner Silicon Ranch,” said Jeannette Mills, TVA Executive Vice President and Chief External Relations Officer. “Together with 153 local power company partners, TVA is building the energy system of the future.  Green Invest has positioned us to bring together customers and renewable energy partners who are all investing in our communities.”

In 2019, Vanderbilt announced its goal to power the campus entirely through renewable energy and become carbon neutral by 2050. The renewable generation from the Vanderbilt I will offset approximately 70% of Vanderbilt University’s annual Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions, or the equivalent of enough power to help serve more than 6,000 homes for one year.

“We are excited to partner with TVA, NES, and Silicon Ranch on this landmark solar project, which we hope will provide a model of collaborative, forward-thinking solutions that can be adopted by other organizations in our region and across the country,” said Daniel Diermeier, Chancellor of Vanderbilt University. “The Vanderbilt I Solar Farm will generate new jobs and tax revenues for the local community and also yield new educational and research opportunities for our faculty and our students—setting a bold precedent for how we can continue to work together on behalf of our shared future.”

Nashville-based Silicon Ranch is funding the project and plans to hire more than 250 craft workers, the majority of whom will be recruited from the Bedford County area and the military veteran community, to install the facility. Silicon Ranch will also own, operate, and maintain the Vanderbilt I Solar Farm, a disciplined approach the company takes with every project it develops.

“Several of our colleagues and I are proud Vanderbilt alumni, and all of us at Silicon Ranch applaud this world-class institution for its bold and thoughtful leadership,” said Matt Kisber, Co-Founder and Chairman of Silicon Ranch. “Thanks to Vanderbilt’s commitment and the vision of our friends at TVA, NES, and DREMC, Silicon Ranch is on pace to invest well over $1 billion in renewable energy projects across the Tennessee Valley, and we are proud to expand this legacy to Bedford County.”

To facilitate the Vanderbilt I Solar Farm, Vanderbilt entered into an agreement with TVA and NES, the university’s local power company. The solar project will interconnect to the electric grid through the distribution system of another local power company, DREMC.

“NES is proud to partner with TVA, Vanderbilt, DREMC and Silicon Ranch to reduce carbon emissions in our region,” said Decosta Jenkins, President and CEO of NES. “We are committed to providing safe, reliable, and affordable power while continuing to listen to our customers’ needs.”

“Duck River Electric is thrilled to support this project and our friends at Vanderbilt, NES, TVA, and Silicon Ranch on this journey,” said Scott Spence, President and CEO of DREMC. “It is a privilege to be part of helping Vanderbilt achieve their sustainability goals, while ensuring the members of Duck River Electric do not incur any of the expense.”

The Vanderbilt I Solar Farm will utilize Silicon Ranch’s transformative Regenerative Energy® land management model, a holistic approach to design, construction, and operations that co-locates renewable energy production with regenerative agriculture practices. The innovative platform delivers valuable environmental, social, and economic outcomes above and beyond the significant positive impacts a solar facility alone can generate, creating additional value for the surrounding communities and project stakeholders. Once the project is operational, Silicon Ranch will restore the land to a functioning grassland ecosystem while keeping the project in agricultural production through managed sheep grazing using regenerative land management practices.

Murfreesboro, Tenn. – Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE) President and CEO Chris Jones has received the 2022 J.C. Brown CEO Communication Leadership Award. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) presented Jones the award at the organization’s CEO Close-Up Conference Jan. 10 in Phoenix. 

According to NRECA, the J.C. Brown Award “recognizes an electric cooperative or public power district CEO/general manager who is committed to advancing communication at the cooperative and in the electric cooperative industry.”  

Jones has an extensive background in the communications field, graduating from the University of Tennessee with a degree in communications and starting his career as a journalist and editor. He went to work at MTE in 1999, serving as communications coordinator and the VP of communications and member services before being named CEO in 2013. 

“We should understand, yet not be intimidated by, the reality that communication is work that is never finished and demands intentionality and continuous improvement,” Jones said. “I have been studying communication since college and attempting to execute it throughout my professional career, and I know I still have much to learn and improve upon. However, I am humbled by and appreciative of this recognition from NRECA.” 

Jones emphasizes the importance of clear, simple and repeated communication across multiple channels to all of MTE’s audiences, always striving to meet the goal of making the lives of MTE members better. In recent years, his leadership and robust communication efforts have navigated the organization through a major tornado in its service area, several severe weather events, the acquisition of United Communications, the merger with the Murfreesboro Electric Department, the continued impacts of COVID-19 and a complete brand refresh. 

His nomination was given a perfect score by one of the three judges who helped select this year’s winner and another mentioned his “notable” use of a strategic plan to communicate the organization’s mission and goals with both employees and members. 

NASHVILLE – The 112th Tennessee General Assembly app gives Tennesseans interested in government and politics a powerful tool for connecting with lawmakers.

Tennessee legislators will return to Nashville on Jan. 11 for the second session of the 112th Tennessee General Assembly. During this year’s session lawmakers will consider legislation that can have an impact on Tennessee families and businesses. That makes it important to stay informed and, at times, reach out to your elected officials.

The Tennessee General Assembly app features a continually updated, searchable database of contact, staff and committee information as well as district maps, photos, leadership roles and social media profiles for members of the Tennessee House and Senate. It also contains information on the governor and his cabinet and the Tennessee congressional delegation.

The app was developed through a partnership between the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and Bass, Berry & Sims PLC. TECA has published an annual directory of the General Assembly for more than 50 years. “Each year, we collect and maintain information on legislators, and we believe that all Tennesseans should have easy access to this information for their lawmakers,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The app makes it easier than ever to connect with your elected representatives.”

The free app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices and can be found by searching for “Tennessee General Assembly” in the Apple App Store or Google PLAY Marketplace.

Weather impacts us all. And this past December was no exception, bringing severe weather to our region. The losses were devastating. My heart goes out to everyone who was affected by the storms. I truly hope that things are on the mend and life is improving. While we all do our best to be aware of severe weather and keep our families safe by hunkering down in an interior closet or a concrete bunker as tornadoes pass, protecting the electric grid is another story entirely.

Storms can severely impact businesses and different industries in a variety of ways. For example, several years ago, I participated in an educational conference that was primarily attended by people involved in agriculture. At that time, there was a large storm system packing hurricane-force winds moving into the Southeast. I was concerned about the effects it would have on the electric grid. The other attendees were concerned about their crops and livestock. All of us were concerned — but for very different reasons. That was an eye-opener for me.

While weather impacts us all, for those of us in the electric utility industry, what happens to our systems affects everyone. In our industry, we keep a close eye on the weather, depending on the National Weather Service, local and national meteorologists, private weather and climate experts, and our own in-house specialists. In early December, we knew the potential for damaging storms existed at least two days before the storms hit on the 10th and 11th.

But no matter what precautions we take to limit loss of life, we can’t do anything about the infrastructure that keeps our homes comfortable and the economy moving.

The December storm was one of the most devastating to hit our region in more than a decade. Not only were many lives lost and homes and businesses destroyed, but the infrastructure that provides power to all of us was also severely damaged.

Your cooperative depends on wholesale delivery of power by the Tennessee Valley Authority, which generates the power and then uses its transmission system to deliver electricity to your local utility.

The destruction to TVA’s transmission system was the worst since 2011; the storm damaged 97 TVA power structures (towers and poles), and 29 transmission line sections were downed. Some towers were destroyed. The result was that even if local utility lines were intact, there was no power to the substation to be able to serve those people.

Compounding this disaster was a lack of materials available to effect repairs. Transformers, which are required to bring the electricity safely into your home at voltages you can use, have been in short supply for months. In recent years, multiple storms have affected numerous utilities, resulting in limited inventories. Manufacturers and suppliers have yet to meet increased demand after being sidelined during the pandemic.

Like always, we pulled together. TVA, Tennessee’s electric co-ops, municipal power providers and contractors restored power as quickly as possible to the communities impacted. Even in the face of tragedy, it was encouraging to see how many rushed to provide assistance when neighbors needed help.

We’ve done this before, and we’ll do it again. We can’t prevent disasters; we can only plan on how we respond. Hopefully, it will a long time before we have to do it again — at least on this scale.

Please click here to learn how you can help recovery efforts.

On the evening on Friday, Dec. 10, a series of violent tornadoes ripped through Tennessee and Kentucky. Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed, and 77 lost their lives.

In the wake of the storm, many are looking for opportunities to assist.

Danny Jowers, emergency management
director for Obion County stands in front of a mountain of donated items in the Samburg, Tenn., resource center.

“The outpouring has been phenomenal,” said Danny Jowers, emergency management director for Obion County as he worked in the Samburg resource center that was established in the days following the storm. “We have plenty of supplies, but if someone wants to make a monetary donation, find a way to do that. People are going to need funds to get their lives back – for housing, for rent or other things they’ll need.”

Several organizations are working in or collecting funds for the affected areas. Some are focused exclusively on co-op employees, while others are providing support for entire communities.

Below is a list of some ways to help victims of the tornadoes.

Kentucky Rural Electric Disaster Fund

Kentucky Electric Cooperatives has organized a fund to assist members of the co-op family who face challenges after disasters and for the aid of communities served by co-ops. Contribute online: https://kyelectric.coop/2021/12/15/kentucky-rural-electric-disaster-fund/

Sensus/Xylem Matching Fund

Sensus, an associate member of TECA, has partnered with Americares to collect funds for those impacted. Sensus/Xylem will match funds up to $25,000 for any donations provided. These funds will go directly into affected areas to assist with real-time needs. Contribute online: https://mywatermark.benevity.org/community/fundraiser/5759

Additional Community and Faith-based Funds

Obion County Tornado Relief Fund
Security Bank and Trust Company
securitybanktn.com • 731-642-6644

Samburg Relief Fund
Security Bank and Trust Company
securitybanktn.com • 731-642-6644

Lake Road Relief Fund
Simmons Bank
simmonsbank.com

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund
cfmt.org/tornado2021 • 888-540-5200

American Red Cross
redcross.org • 1-800-RED CROSS

Southern Baptist Churches Disaster Relief
tnbaptist.org • 615-373-2255

United Methodist Committee on Relief
umcmission.org • 800-862-4246

Churches of Christ Disaster Relief
churchesofchristdrt.org • 937-308-7593

Samaritan’s Purse
samaritanspurse.org • 828-262-1980

 

If you are aware of other groups or funds who are supporting the recovery effort, please contact Trent Scott.

Columbia, Tenn. – Duck River Electric Membership Corporation (DREMC), an electric provider serving 2,500 square miles of middle Tennessee, and United Communications, Middle Tennessee’s leading provider of fiber and fixed wireless internet services, announced today that they are collaborating to expand broadband access to underserved areas across Middle Tennessee.

Industry data indicates that while average household demand for internet data has grown over 38 times in the past decade, approximately 18% of Tennesseans live in unserved areas for broadband internet. The lack of broadband infrastructure in rural areas has resulted in a digital divide, subjecting those without high-speed internet to a significant disadvantage in career development, telemedicine, and social engagement opportunities.

DREMC reinforces its commitment to the members they serve by advancing high-speed internet connectivity. Through the development of a robust fiber backbone that enhances service dependability, DREMC is not only delivering safe and reliable electricity at the lowest possible cost but also supporting United in building a reliable fiber and fixed wireless network in the region.

United is a subsidiary of Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE), and that partnership supports the effort to deliver high-speed internet to underserved areas in Middle Tennessee, the mission of United’s Project UNITE initiative. By collaborating to bridge the digital divide, United, MTE, and now DREMC can expedite the delivery of high-speed internet to areas of need. Specific to DREMC, the relationship solidifies expansion for broadband, especially for many communities that lack adequate internet access.

Project UNITE was initiated by United to focus on rural communities to connect unserved homes and businesses, partner with local stakeholders, companies, and governments seeking grant support, and deliver industry-leading customer experience.

The announcement was made by Scott Spence, President and CEO of DREMC, and William Bradford, President and CEO of United Communications, in conjunction with Chris Jones, President, and CEO of MTE, at the DREMC Office in Columbia, TN, on December 10, 2021.

“DREMC is proud to be part of the solution to the internet needs of members in underserved areas. The first step in this journey began in 2018 with the initial work needed to develop a 386-mile fiber backbone that allows DREMC to better serve members and provide important infrastructure for established internet providers to utilize,” said Spence. “Today, we are excited to partner with United Communications to further leverage what DREMC has built for the benefit of the members we serve. This is a key step in being part of the solution to deliver reliable, competitively priced internet with a focus on customer care.”

The effort to build out the southern Tennessee network is greatly enhanced by DREMC’s foresight and proactivity in establishing a fiber ring throughout their service area that is expected to be complete in mid-2022. United’s expertise in fiber and fixed wireless, combined with DREMC’s assets and permits, provides an effective and efficient way to enter the next phase of delivering broadband and a world-class smart grid.

“United is a local company that serves our customers with the same focus and care that Duck River Electric delivers to their members,” said Bradford. “This relationship creates a powerful bond between two companies that can benefit from each other’s resources and expedite the pathway to internet access, speed, and reliability that everyone deserves. For example, in partnership with MTE, we have been able to build and offer connectivity to over 12,000 unserved locations,” added Bradford. “We understand the special relationship cooperatives have with their members and believe we can apply the knowledge and experience we gained with MTE’s success and leverage that for the benefit of DREMC members.”

“A fundamental cooperative principle is cooperatives supporting cooperatives.” Added MTE President and CEO Chris Jones. “I’m so pleased to see MTE’s broadband company, United Communications, in a position to support our sister cooperative in expanding important service to DREMC members.”

As more planning develops, DREMC members will be able to check if their address is serviceable by United and register their interest by visiting https://united.net.

Additional information on the partnership can be found at www.United.net/DREMC or learn more about Project UNITE at www.United.net/project-unite.

Nonprofit, fully online university will provide $50,000 in scholarships through its “Power Your Future” initiative for new students who are electric cooperative members 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 28, 2021) – In an effort to empower residents in rural areas of Tennessee to go back to school and further their education, WGU Tennessee, an affiliate of Western Governors University, has announced it has partnered with Tennessee’s electric cooperatives to provide $50,000 in scholarships to residents who are served by an electric cooperative and are interested in pursuing a degree from the online, nonprofit university. The “Power Your Future” scholarship is open to new students in rural areas of Tennessee who are consumers of, or live in a household served by, one of the 23 rural electric co-ops that power rural Tennessee.

Learn more about the Power Your Future scholarship

“Electric co-ops and WGU share a mutual goal of supporting and investing in the future of rural communities,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “This partnership with WGU will provide new opportunities for the 2.5 million Tennesseans served by electric co-ops in Tennessee to pursue a degree in higher education without the barrier of cost. We are excited to be on the front lines of building a brighter Tennessee.”

WGU is a leader in providing fully online, affordable, competency-based education to working adults who are interested in furthering their skillset but need the flexibility of online education to fit their busy lives. Through the “Power Your Future” scholarships, WGU aims to empower students in rural Tennessee who are committed to going back to school to complete their undergraduate or graduate degrees. Each scholarship is valued at up to $3,000 and will be applied at a rate of $750 per six-month term.

To be eligible, scholarship applicants must be officially admitted to WGU and enrolled in one of the university’s more than 60 accredited bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in business, information technology, K–12 teacher education, and health professions, including nursing. Students must also complete the scholarship application at wgu.edu/power and be interviewed by a WGU scholarship counselor. Recipients will be selected based on academic records, financial need, readiness for online study, and current competency, among other considerations.

“We are delighted to partner with Tennessee’s electric cooperatives in this important venture, making education more accessible and affordable for working adults across Tennessee,” said Kim Estep, chancellor of WGU Tennessee and vice president, Southeast Region of WGU. “Together we seek to provide a streamlined approach and expand access to higher education, particularly for rural residents served by electric cooperatives who do not have easy access to high-quality higher education in their communities.”

Over 4,000 Tennesseans are currently enrolled at WGU Tennessee, which has conferred more than 7,000 degrees in the state.

For more information about WGU or the Power Your Future scholarship, visit wgu.edu/power.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and SP-Teri officials announced today that the company will relocate its headquarters and manufacturing operations from Nashville to McEwen, creating 35 new jobs.

“We appreciate SP-Teri’s continued commitment to Tennessee,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “This expansion of 35 new jobs and relocation to Humphreys County will positively impact this community that continues to recover and rebuild from the flood in August.”

SP-Teri chose to relocate following the 2020 Nashville tornado when its facility was destroyed. Through this new expansion and relocation, SP-Teri will invest $435,000 in its new McEwen operations, located at 55 High Street West.

“TVA and Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative congratulate SP-Teri on its decision to expand operations in Humphreys County,” said John Bradley, TVA senior vice president of Economic Development. “It’s always an exciting day when we can celebrate a company’s commitment to continued growth in the Valley. We are proud to partner with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and the Humphreys County Economic Development Council to support companies, like SP-Teri, to create job opportunities and investment in the region and celebrate this announcement together.”

For over 50 years, SP-Teri has created high quality boots for elite figure skaters. After being shut down for almost a year, this expansion will allow SP-Teri to not only restart its operations, but expand its product offerings to make roller plates and trucks as well as inline skates.

In the last five years, TNECD has supported more than 200 economic development projects in Northern Middle Tennessee resulting in nearly 50,000 job commitments and roughly $8.4 billion in capital investment.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Lodge Manufacturing Company officials today announced the company will invest $56 million to expand its South Pittsburg facility, where it has operated for 125 years.

“For 125 years, Lodge has called South Pittsburg home and relied on skilled Tennesseans to make products that last for generations,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “I’m proud that this respected brand continues to thrive in our state, and we thank the company for its additional investment in Southeast Tennessee.”

In order to meet increased demand, Lodge will expand and reconfigure its existing facility and add additional manufacturing equipment to enhance production capabilities. Lodge will create 239 new jobs as a result of the expansion.

“TVA and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative congratulate Lodge Manufacturing on its decision to expand operations in Marion County,” said John Bradley, TVA senior vice president of Economic Development. “It’s always an exciting day when we can celebrate one of our region’s most long-standing companies and its continued commitment to growth in the Valley. We are proud to partner with Marion County Government, City of South Pittsburg Government, and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to help support companies, like Lodge Manufacturing’s business success.”

Founded in 1896, Lodge is a fifth-generation, family-owned company that manufactures the largest selection of American made cast iron cookware. Lodge operates two foundries in South Pittsburg, the second of which opened in 2017 and increased the company’s manufacturing capacity by 75%.

Lodge offers a variety of products ranging from its signature seasoned cast iron to enameled cast iron and carbon steel cookware. Customers can also shop a wide range of items specifically made for grilling or baking.

For more information about Lodge Manufacturing Company, visit lodgecastiron.com. To view open positions, visit lodgecastiron.com/careers.

Nashville, TENN. – Nearly 300 electric co-op employees participated in the fifth annual Tennessee Electric Cooperative Day of Service on Thursday, Oct. 21. Twenty individual service projects were completed across the state with 292 employees from 10 electric co-ops volunteering more than 700 hours in service to their local communities. This year’s projects included painting and repairing playground equipment, cleaning a small business damaged in the Waverly flood and coordinating food, clothing, classroom supply and toy drives.

“Our commitment to the people and places we serve runs deep,” says Trent Scott, TECA’s vice president of corporate strategy and organizer of the event. “Our employees are raising families in these communities, and they want to give back. The Day of Service is an opportunity for our employees to complete projects that have a real impact.”

Sponsors for the 2021 Day of Service were Bass, Berry and Sims, Calix, Silicon Ranch, Tennessee811 and The Tennessee Magazine.

In the five-year history of the Day of Service event, 1,900 employees have volunteered more than 4,900 hours to complete 116 individual projects in co-op communities across the state.

Co-ops participating in the 2021 Day of Service and the projects they completed were:

  • Caney Fork Electric Cooperative – Coordinated Christmas toy drive for area children
  • Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation – Painted playground equipment for local schools
  • Fayetteville Public Utilities – delivered gift bags to residents in local assisted living and nursing facilities
  • Gibson Electric Membership Corporation – Provided classroom supplies for 11 teachers and 96 students
  • Pickwick Electric Cooperative – Assisted the Jesus Cares Thrift Store and packed and delivered care packages to nursing home residents
  • Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association – Helped clean a small business impacted by the Waverly, Tenn., flood
  • Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative – Donated meals to local healthcare workers and raised money for a veterans group
  • Volunteer Energy Cooperative – donated food to food banks and a back pack program

In the photo: Caney Fork Electric Cooperative employees collect toys to ensure that area children have a special holiday.

DETROIT – Ford Motor Company announced Monday that it has selected the Memphis Regional Megasite for one of the largest battery and vehicle manufacturing campuses in the U.S. The partnership between Ford and SK Innovation is a $5.6 billion investment that will bring 5,800 new jobs to the region. Called Blue Oval City, the complex will be constructed on a nearly 6-square-mile site near Stanton in West Tennessee and build next-generation electric F-Series pickups and advanced batteries.

“This is a watershed moment for Tennesseans as we lead the future of the automotive industry and advanced manufacturing,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

The site, located approximately 25 miles east of Memphis and 32 miles west of Jackson, lies within the service areas of two electric cooperatives: Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation and Chickasaw Electric Cooperative. While the assembly plant is expected to be directly served by the Tennessee Valley Authority, both co-ops expect the project to have a significant impact.

“The scope of this project is unlike anything Tennessee has ever seen,” said Kevin Murphy, CEO of Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation and board president of TECA. “This development will have a lasting impact on the communities we serve and all of West Tennessee. We are honored that Ford selected our region to for this historic investment, and we are celebrating the exciting opportunities that this will create.”

“This week’s Ford announcement will have a lasting, positive affect on our region,” said Loyd Muncy, CEO of Chickasaw Electric Cooperative. “The economic opportunities created by a project of this size will benefit Chickasaw Electric, our consumers and all the communities we serve for generations.”

Blue Oval City will be designed to be the largest, most advanced and most efficient automotive production campus in Ford’s history. The campus will include the Ford assembly plant, a supplier park and a battery manufacturing plant operated by BlueOvalSK, Ford and SK Innovation’s joint venture. The site will become a vertically integrated ecosystem with key suppliers and battery manufacturing on the same campus where Ford will assemble next generation all-electric F-Series trucks.

The Ford buildout of the Memphis Regional Megasite is anticipated to result in significant job creation and capital investment. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development projected the following:

  • The project is anticipated to generate more than 27,000 new jobs, both directly and indirectly, to support the site’s operations. This will result in more than $1.02 billion in annual earnings.
  • This project is anticipated to contribute $3.5 billion each year to Tennessee’s gross state product.
  • This project is also expected to generate temporary construction benefits, including $5.6 billion spent on land, buildings and other real property improvements. Additionally, more than 32,000 jobs are expected to support the construction period with around $1.87 billion in salaries related to construction activity.

“Today is a historic day as we welcome Ford Motor Company and SK Innovation to Tennessee,” said Tennessee Department of Economic Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe. “The ripple effect resulting from these projects will be transformational for our state, especially West Tennessee, and we are most grateful for this enormous investment and the addition of two top global brands. To have such a world renowned, American company land as our first tenant at the Memphis Regional Megasite underscores the site’s strength and potential for additional joint venture partners and suppliers.”

Murfreesboro, Tenn. – The Nominating Committee of Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE) announced today that Vanessa Hickman will serve on the MTE Board of Directors, completing the term of the seat vacated by the retirement of Tom Purkey.

Hickman was nominated to the Board after submitting her candidacy during the submission period and completing an interview process.

She will fill the Wilson County District 4A seat left open by the retirement of Tom Purkey, who moved out of the MTE service territory after serving on the Board for nine years.

Regarding Hickman’s nomination, MTE’s Board Chairman Mike Woods said, “Vanessa is a dedicated and highly respected member of our community, and we have no doubt her skills will be an asset to our Board. We’re honored to have her fill this role, and we appreciate the work of the Nominating Committee in exercising its duty to fill the board vacancy through an open process.”

Hickman recently retired from the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority as Assistant Vice President of Information Technology and was the Authority’s first Chief Information Officer. Over the course of a career spanning more than 40 years, including roles at Gaylord Entertainment and IBM, she provided information systems advice on managing IT applications and applying technology to support business goals.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from East Tennessee State University and a master’s degree in healthcare informatics from Lipscomb University. Hickman is a Certified Member of the American Association of Airport Executives and serves as an adjunct professor of healthcare informatics at Trevecca Nazarene University. In addition to her new role on the MTE Board, she has been heavily involved with various community organizations throughout the years. Currently, she is a member of Women of Technology in Tennessee and the Nashville Technology Council (NTC), of which she recently was inducted into their Hall of Fame.

Additional recognitions and honors throughout her prestigious career include Fifty Forward’s 2019 Harriet Folley Leadership Award and being named a 2019 finalist for the NTC CIO of the Year award.

Hickman lives in Mt. Juliet with her husband, James, and they have a daughter, Jamette.

Sixty-three lineworkers from 7 Tennessee electric cooperatives are assisting with Hurricane Ida recovery efforts. The massive hurricane left widespread damage across Louisiana where power restoration is expected to take weeks.

“Our crews have a reputation for responding quickly, working safely and showing compassion to those who have been impacted by storms like this one,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We commend their desire to serve and wish them well in the days to come.”

Jean Sutton, a resident of St. Gabriel, Louisiana, who is originally from Morristown, Tennessee, took to Facebook earlier this week to thank Appalachian Electric after meeting one of their contract crews restoring power to her home. “You don’t have any idea the hope you give us after such destruction and the life you restore when the power comes back on!,” reads her post.

“We know that there is a long road ahead for the people of Louisiana,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations and coordinator of statewide mutual aid for TECA. “Our Tennessee co-ops are proud to be able to assist them during this time of need.”


Below is a list of Tennessee co-ops providing assistance and the name and location of the co-op they will be helping. This information is likely to change as the storm nears the coast.

  • Appalachian Electric Cooperative in New Market, Tenn. – eight lineworkers to DEMCO in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Chickasaw Electric Cooperative in Somerville, Tenn. – six lineworkers to Washington St. Tammany Electric Cooperative in Franklinton, Louisiana
  • Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Clarksville, Tenn. – 10 lineworkers to DEMCO in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Fayetteville Public Utilities in Fayetteville, Tenn. – nine lineworkers to DEMCO in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Holston Electric Cooperative in Rogersville, Tenn. – 10 lineworkers to DEMCO in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Brownsville, Tenn. – 10 lineworkers to Washington St. Tammany Electric Cooperative in Franklinton, Louisiana
  • Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Carthage, Tenn. – 10 lineworkers to DEMCO in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Photo by David Abernathy. CEMC crews depart Clarksville to assist with power restoration following Hurricane Ida.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced today the appointment of Brooxie Carlton as assistant commissioner of Community and Rural Development.

Carlton, a member of the department for more than 13 years, has most recently served as deputy assistant commissioner of Rural Development since 2015. She replaces Sammie Arnold, who has taken on the role of chief of staff to House Speaker Cameron Sexton.

“Brooxie has proven herself to be an extraordinary leader and valued team member at TNECD, and I have no doubt that this will be a seamless transition,” Rolfe said. “Brooxie’s experience and the relationships she has built with communities throughout the state demonstrates that she is the best fit for this role and will carry out the department’s mission to expand economic opportunities across rural Tennessee. We appreciate Sammie Arnold for his leadership and time at TNECD and for making rural Tennessee a priority. We look forward to working with him as he begins the next step in his career.”

Assisting and advancing rural Tennessee is one of the main focuses of TNECD and supports Gov. Lee’s first executive order, which required each executive department to submit recommendations on how to better serve rural Tennesseans. Over the past eight years, the number of distressed counties in Tennessee has decreased from 26 to nine. In her new role, Carlton will lead TNECD’s long-term rural strategy, which is built around a full suite of community development grants and enhanced efforts to support job creation in Tennessee’s most economically vulnerable communities.

As deputy assistant commissioner of Rural and Community Development, Carlton oversaw federal grant funding from the Delta Regional Authority, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Community Development Block Grant program.

In addition, Carlton managed the administration of more than 3,000 grants totaling more than $650 million, including federal funding in excess of $500 million. She serves as Gov. Bill Lee’s alternate to the boards of the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority.

“I have had the opportunity to work with Tennessee’s rural communities for several years now. We have developed programs that benefitted our communities and citizens from downtown development to industrial site development to water and sewer projects,” Carlton said. “I am honored to be able to expand that work and lead a great team that is committed to making our state a great place to live and work.”

Born and raised in Dyersburg, Tennessee, Carlton attended Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with honors. Carlton went on to receive her master’s degree in human, organizational and community development from Vanderbilt University.

MURFREESBORO, TN – Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE) leadership updated cooperative members on the organization’s health and answered questions directly from its members during its Annual Meeting, held virtually Aug. 28.

In their report to the membership, Board Chairman Mike Woods and CEO Chris Jones discussed the major components that made 2020 an unusual but successful year. MTE’s merger with Murfreesboro Electric Department in July of 2020 increased the organization’s membership to 315,000 members, making it the second-largest electric membership cooperative in the United States. To celebrate the merger and the start of a new era, MTE rolled out a new branding campaign, including a new logo, for the combined company. It was just the third such change since MTE’s founding.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted every element of the way MTE operates, and leadership acted quickly to implement policies and practices that would ensure the safety of members and its employees while continuing to maintain high standards of service. MTE line crews worked tirelessly last February to restore power after a devastating ice storm wiped out power for thousands of members. In addition, Woods and Jones touched on subsidiary United Communications’ continued efforts to expand its broadband footprint to members.

“Though 2020 was a difficult year in many ways, I am proud of how the entire MTE team pushed through and stepped up to provide assistance to our members when it was needed the most,” said Jones. “Ultimately, this year allowed us to evolve and expand in ways that will continue to have a positive impact on our community.”

A business session followed the video presentation, during which Treasurer Jim Mills spoke about the healthy financial position of the organization.

Per the cooperative’s bylaws, the results of the election for five seats on the Board of Directors were announced during the Annual Meeting. Five members were re-elected: Ann Little – Williamson County, David Lee – Rutherford County, Ross Bradley – Rutherford County, Dr. Shervondalonn Brown – Rutherford County, and Jim Mills – Wilson County.

MTE board members serve staggered three-year terms, and the Nominating Committee is responsible for nominating next year’s board of director candidates.

The 2021 Nominating Committee election resulted in the appointment of Donald Lampley, Karen Paris and Juanita Patton from District 1 – Williamson County; Thomas “Teb” Batey, Jamey Faulkner, Danny Sapp and Richard Stone from District 2 – Rutherford County; Jeanne Melton from District 3 – Cannon County; and Zachary Butler, Ken Howell and Quintin Smith from District 4 – Wilson County.

In an organizational meeting following the Annual Meeting, the board re-elected Mike Woods of Rutherford County as chairman, Steve Seger of Williamson County as vice chairman and Jim Mills of Wilson County as secretary-treasurer.

A Q&A session was conducted and questions from members were answered live. Members inquired about broadband, COVID, member programs and a variety of current topics.

“It would have been wonderful to see our members in person at this year’s Annual Meeting, but we are grateful that we are still able to share information, gather feedback and keep our members updated in a comprehensive manner,” said Woods. “Our members are the backbone of MTE, and we are honored to fulfill our purpose of making their lives better.”

Robert White (L), Vice President of Member Services and Community Relations, and Chris Jones (R), MTE President and CEO, during the Q&A session. Image via WGNS.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Amazon officials announced today that the company will establish a new, state-of-the-art fulfillment center in Clarksville.

“This fulfillment facility comes on a wave of recent announcements of Amazon investing in Tennessee,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “The creation of 500 new jobs will bolster the economic growth that Montgomery County is experiencing, and it will support Amazon’s initiatives across our state.”

“TVA and Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation congratulate Amazon on its decision to locate operations and create hundreds of new job opportunities in Clarksville,” said John Bradley, TVA senior vice president of Economic Development. “Working with our partners, like the Clarksville Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, to support job creation and investment in the Valley is fundamental to TVA’s mission of service. We are proud to celebrate this announcement and look forward to Amazon’s continued business success in the region.”

Amazon will create 500 full-time jobs with comprehensive benefits at the new one-million-square-foot fulfillment center, where employees will pick, pack and ship larger customer items, such as bulk paper goods, sports equipment, patio furniture and larger home goods and electronics. The facility, which will house innovative Amazon technologies and energy efficient, zero-emission power industrialized truck (PIT) equipment, is expected to launch in 2022.

The Clarksville facility will be Amazon’s tenth fulfillment and sortation center in Tennessee and the fourth to be announced in the past 19 months. In 2020, Amazon committed to creating 1,000 jobs at new facilities in both Memphis and Mt. Juliet and most recently in February 2021, the company announced a new fulfillment center project in Alcoa, tacking on an additional 800 new jobs.

Amazon currently operates fulfillment and sortation centers in Charleston, Chattanooga, Lebanon, Memphis, Murfreesboro and Nashville. The company is in the midst of building Amazon Nashville, a new downtown office that will bring more than 5,000 tech and corporate jobs to Nashville.

Since 2010, Amazon has invested more than $13 billion in Tennessee, including infrastructure and compensation to thousands of its employees in the state. Amazon’s investments in Tennessee contributed an additional $13 billion into the state’s economy, and using methodology developed by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Amazon estimates its investments in the state have created an additional 39,000 indirect jobs on top of the company’s more than 25,000 direct hires in Tennessee.

Amazon’s innovative Career Choice program pre-pays 95 percent of tuition for courses in high-demand fields. Since the program’s launch, more than 30,000 employees have pursued degrees in game design and visual communications, nursing, IT programming and radiology, to name a few. In addition, Amazon has pledged to invest over $700 million to provide upskilling training for 100,000 U.S. employees for in-demand jobs. Programs will help Amazonians from all backgrounds access training to move into highly-skilled roles across the company’s corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centers, retails stores, and transportation network, or pursue career paths outside of Amazon.

Over the last five years, TNECD has supported nine economic development projects in Montgomery County, resulting in approximately 2,550 job commitments and $708 million in capital investment.

To learn more about working at Amazon, visit www.amazondelivers.jobs.

Centerville, Tenn. — The Tennessee Valley Authority, in partnership with Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative and Bicentennial Volunteers Incorporated (a TVA retiree organization), recently awarded grant monies for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education projects. Nichole McMillan received $1550 for Erin Elementary, and Emily Waters received $5000 for Perry County High School.

The competitive grant program provided teachers an opportunity to apply for funding up to $5,000 and preference was given to grant applications that explored TVA’s primary areas of focus: environment, energy, economic and career development and community problem solving as well as pandemic related projects.

“Educating area youth takes commitment and teamwork,” said MLEC President and CEO Keith Carnahan. “We are grateful to work with TVA and area teachers to create more opportunities in the classroom through this program and many others. Together, we’re changing lives and helping build brighter futures for these students and our communities.”

“Despite the new challenges Valley teachers faced in 2020, they are still focused on providing the best STEM education possible and have adjusted to new ways of teaching,” said TVA Community Engagement Senior Program Manager Rachel Crickmar.  “I am proud of the partnerships we have built with these amazing educators across the Tennessee Valley over the past few years and are pleased to be able to provide some support through this program. Through the grants awarded this year, over 72,000 students will be directly impacted across the Valley.”

MLEC is a member-owned, not-for-profit electric utility serving more than 35,000 meters in Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Lewis and Perry counties.  Learn more about MLEC and MLConnect broadband internet at www.mlec.com. ###

NASHVILLE – This week, electric co-op leaders from across the state held online meetings with Tennessee’s congressional delegation as part of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s 2021 Legislative Conference. During the meetings, co-op leaders discussed issues that are important for electric co-ops and for rural and suburban Tennessee.

Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, said that hearing from people back home is important. “Lawmakers consider hundreds of pieces of legislation, and co-op leaders can help them better understand the real-world impacts of laws and policies created in D.C.”

Lawmakers were encouraged to support broadband and other investments in rural infrastructure and to co-sign legislation that would allow electric co-ops to take advantage of historically low interest rates. Lawmakers were also invited to visit their local co-ops to meet employees and tour co-op facilities.

“Tennesseans know all too well the importance of keeping the lights on in the Volunteer State,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn. “Thank you to Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association for mobilizing industry leaders and solving problems for hardworking Americans.”

Co-op leaders hosted meetings with Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Sen. Bill Hagerty’s staff, along with Reps. Tim Burchett, Scott DesJarlais, Chuck Fleischmann, Mark Green, Diana Harshbarger, David Kustoff and John Rose.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe today announced Ultium Cells LLC, a joint venture of LG Energy Solution and General Motors, will invest more than $2.3 billion to build its second battery cell manufacturing plant in the United States.

Located in Spring Hill, the project will create 1,300 new manufacturing jobs in Maury County.

Ultium Cells LLC will build the new 2.8-million-square-foot, state-of-the-art plant on land leased from General Motors. Construction will begin immediately, and the plant is scheduled to be open in late 2023. Once operational, the Ultium Cells plant will supply battery cells to GM’s Spring Hill assembly plant.

In October 2020, GM announced it would invest $2 billion in its Spring Hill assembly plant to begin the transition to become the company’s third electric vehicle manufacturing site, and the first outside of the state of Michigan. The all-new Cadillac LYRIQ will be the first electric vehicle produced at GM’s Spring Hill assembly plant. GM will also continue to produce the Cadillac XT6 and XT5 at the facility.

GM’s proprietary Ultium battery technology is at the heart of the company’s strategy to compete for nearly every EV customer in the marketplace, whether they are looking for affordable transportation, luxury vehicles, work trucks, commercial trucks or high-performance machines.

“The addition of our second all-new Ultium battery cell plant in the U.S. with our joint venture partner LG Energy Solution is another major step in our transition to an all-electric future,” said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO. “The support of the state of Tennessee was an important factor in making this investment in Spring Hill possible and this type of support will be critical going forward as we will continue to take steps to transition our manufacturing footprint to support EV production.”

Ultium batteries are unique in the industry because the large-format, pouch-style cells can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside the battery pack. This allows engineers to optimize battery energy storage and layout for each vehicle design. Energy options range from 50 to 200 kilowatt hours, which could enable a GM-estimated range up to 450 miles or more on a full charge with 0-60 mph acceleration in 3 seconds*.

GM’s future Ultium-powered EVs are designed for Level 2 and DC fast charging. Most will have 400-volt battery packs and up to 200 kW fast charging capability while GM’s truck platform will have 800-volt battery packs and 350 kW fast charging capability.

With a 30-year history in the battery business, LG Energy Solution has made consistent, large-scale investments to accumulate enough stability, credibility and manufacturing experience to invent its own cutting-edge technologies. The company established its first research facility in the U.S. in the early 2000s. In 2010, the company built its first U.S battery plant in Holland, Michigan.

Through Ultium Cells, LG Energy Solution and GM will merge their advanced technologies and capabilities to help accelerate automotive electrification.

Tennessee claims nearly 40 percent of the Southeast’s electric vehicle manufacturing jobs and investment, with more than $4.2 billion invested by companies in Tennessee’s electric vehicle industry. In addition, more than 16,000 electric vehicles are produced in the state each year, which ranks Tennessee No. 1 in the Southeast for electric vehicle manufacturing.

“The decision to build this plant in Tennessee is a testament to our state’s position as a leader in the automotive industry,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “As automakers continue to shift production to electric vehicles, I am proud that Tennessee offers the business climate and skilled workforce to support their growth. I appreciate General Motors and LG Energy Solution for making this substantial investment in Spring Hill and for creating 1,300 new jobs for Tennesseans.”

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. – A little sunshine will soon be in your next glass of whiskey as Jack Daniel’s partners with the Tennessee Valley Authority, Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, and Nashville-based solar power producer Silicon Ranch to provide the iconic Tennessee whiskey maker’s Lynchburg distillery with 20 megawatts of solar energy.

TVA signed a long-term power purchase agreement with Silicon Ranch to build, own, and operate the solar facility just a few miles from the world-famous distillery in Moore County, Tennessee, pending environmental reviews.

This Middle-Tennessee solar project is another win for TVA’s nationally recognized Green Invest program, which has already secured solar farms to help meet the renewable energy goals of auto manufacturers, data centers, local power companies, cities, and universities.

“Our commitment to making great whiskey is only matched by our commitment to preserving the world we call home through sustainable practices,” said Jack Daniel’s Vice President and Assistant General Manager Melvin Keebler. “We’re excited to be the first distillery to sign a Green Invest deal that will provide nearly three-quarters of our electricity needs. Now the world’s most iconic whiskey is even greener.”

Jack Daniel’s runs its distillery with a zero-waste to landfill policy and has programs to protect the water and wood used to make its whiskey.

“This announcement demonstrates the environmental leadership of Jack Daniel’s and Duck River, fueled by our shared long-term commitment to renewable energy and community engagement,” said Chris Hansen, TVA vice president, Origination and Renewables. “TVA’s Green Invest program is the nexus for any organization interested in making renewable energy a part of their business.”

Since 2018, Green Invest has attracted nearly $2.7 billion in solar investment and procured over 2,100 megawatts of solar on behalf of its customers – maintaining TVA’s green energy leadership as the energy provider with the greatest amount of renewable generation in the Southeast.

“TVA, Jack Daniel’s and Duck River are excellent neighbors who are valuable assets to our community,” said Mayor Bonnie Lewis, Metro Lynchburg, Moore County, Tennessee. “Each year, hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world tour the distillery, and this solar farm from our newest corporate citizen Silicon Ranch will be another attraction as they provide additional construction jobs and tax revenue to Moore County.”

Silicon Ranch collaborated with local landowners Cumberland Springs Land Company, the leadership at Motlow State Community College, and officials in Moore County to develop the solar project.

“The Tennessee Valley is our home, and Silicon Ranch is honored to be part of this compelling story that demonstrates what’s possible when partners work together with a shared commitment to our local communities,” said Reagan Farr, Silicon Ranch Co-Founder and CEO. “Thanks to the leadership of our friends at TVA, local power companies such as DREMC, and visionary companies such as Jack Daniel’s, Silicon Ranch is on pace to invest more than $1 billion across the Valley, and we are proud to expand this legacy to Moore County.”

TVA sees a bright future for solar fueling the region’s economy and has increased its contracted solar capacity by 60% since October 2020.

“Duck River is honored to serve as Jack Daniel’s trusted energy provider,” said Scott Spence, DREMC president and CEO. “We have witnessed great things happen over the years through Jack Daniel’s investment in the Metro Lynchburg, Moore County community, and this is no exception. Duck River is thrilled to be a part of this project.”