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.”

Congressman David Kustoff met with Gibson Electric Membership Corporation management Thursday, April 8. During the visit, Kustoff gave a Washington legislative update and asked questions about Gibson EMC’s broadband subsidiary, Gibson Connect.

“We really appreciate the information Congressman Kustoff shared with us and we are grateful for the work he is doing to help Gibson EMC and other electric cooperatives provide high-speed internet service to our member-owners and communities,” said Dan Rodamaker, President and CEO of Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect. “His discussion with us demonstrated a keen understanding of the importance of broadband to rural west Tennessee and a sincere concern for those we serve.”

Gibson EMC formed Gibson Connect in 2017 when the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act was passed, allowing cooperatives to provide and sell internet directly to their member-owners.

“Since then, we have worked diligently to build our fiber network and provide access to our eligible members,” Rodamaker said.  “Thanks to Congressman Kustoff and others in our state and federal government who have provided support, Gibson EMC has applied for and been awarded $7.5 million in state construction grants,” he said.  “This is extremely important to all of our members because it will enable us to provide access to this essential service more affordably.”

Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative puts Co-op Principle Number 7, Concern for Community, in practice by supporting local organizations. A $3,000 contribution was presented to the Hickman County Economic and Community Development Association to help with the efforts in promoting and building a strong county. From left, MLEC President and CEO Keith Carnahan, MLEC Directors Johnnie Ruth Elrod and Dr. Zack Hutchens, HCECDA Executive Director Brenda Brock, MLEC Director Wayne Qualls and District Manager Matthew Chessor.

Nashville – Today the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced that five Tennessee electric co-ops will receive a total of $5.3 million to expand access to broadband in rural Tennessee. Now in its fourth year, the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant Fund has invested more than $100 million in state and federal dollars to bring fast and reliable internet access to all Tennesseans.

“Every Tennessean should have access to the same high-speed broadband, no matter what ZIP code they live in,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “Our continued investment in internet connectivity will help level the playing field for rural communities across our state, and I thank these 13 providers for partnering with us to help nearly 18,000 more Tennesseans get connected.”

Since the Broadband Accessibility Act passed in 2017, 14 of Tennessee’s 23 electric co-ops have launched broadband projects.

“Broadband access is an essential service for  families and businesses alike, and that is just as true on the farm as it is on Main Street,” said Mike Knotts, vice president of government relations with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We appreciate Gov. Lee and ECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe’s commitment to bring high-speed connectivity to rural Tennessee, and we are honored that they have once again turned to co-ops to get the job done.”

Electric co-ops and their partners receiving grants are:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Six major utilities today announced a plan to ensure that electric vehicle drivers have access to a seamless network of charging stations connecting major highway systems from the Atlantic Coast, through the Midwest and South, and into the Gulf and Central Plains regions.

The Electric Highway Coalition – made up of American Electric Power, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Entergy Corp., Southern Co., and the Tennessee Valley Authority – announced a plan to enable EV drivers seamless travel across major regions of the country through a network of DC fast chargers for EVs. The companies are each taking steps to provide EV charging solutions within their service territories. This represents an unprecedented effort to offer convenient EV charging options across different company territories and allow EV travel without interruption.

The Edison Electric Institute estimates 18 million EVs will be on U.S. roads by 2030. While many drivers recognize the benefits of driving an EV, such as the ease of low-cost home charging, some are concerned with the availability of charging stations during long road trips. With efforts like the Electric Highway Coalition, electric companies are demonstrating to customers that EVs are a smart choice for driving around town as well as traveling long distances.

This effort will provide drivers with effective, efficient, and convenient charging options that enable long distance EV travel. Sites along major highway routes with easy highway access and amenities for travelers are being considered as coalition members work to determine final charging station locations. Charging stations will provide DC fast chargers that are capable of getting drivers back on the road in approximately 20-30 minutes.

“TVA and the local power companies we serve are focused on being innovative transportation leaders, and we’re pleased to collaborate with neighboring utilities such as American Electric Power, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Entergy Corp. and Southern Company on this initiative,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA president and CEO. “Together, we can power the electric road trip of tomorrow by ensuring seamless travel across a large region of the U.S. This is one of many strategic partnerships that TVA is building to increase the number of electric vehicles to well over 200,000 in the Tennessee Valley by 2028.”

Lyash believes that electrifying transportation can spur the same innovative transformation that electrifying the Tennessee Valley did back when TVA was founded. He said, “EV adoption will spur jobs and economic investment in the region, keep refueling dollars in the local economy, reduce the region’s largest source of carbon emissions, and save drivers and businesses money.”

TVA is leading the charge to increase EV adoption in its seven-state service area with the recently announced EV Initiative, which is based on building partnerships with LPCs, state agencies and other organizations. TVA is making investments and coordinating partner funding that could bring up to $40 million in programs to support EV adoption in the next five years. This initiative is a multi-year plan to accelerate the electrification of transportation through programs to reduce or eliminate the market barriers that currently prevent more people from choosing EVs. By addressing the barriers to EV adoption, the anticipated outcome is:

  • Well over 200,000 EVs on Valley roadways by 2028.
  • $120 million reinvested in the local economy per year from electric refueling.
  • $200 million in consumer fuel savings per year.
  • Almost 1 million metric tons of CO2 saved per year (or the equivalent of the carbon sequestered by 1 million acres of U.S. forests in one year).

This announcement comes on the heels of the recently announced partnership between TVA and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to develop and fund a fast charging network across the interstates and major highways of Tennessee. TVA plans to work with state agencies in other states to develop a fast charging network across the Tennessee Valley.

“Tennessee is on the forefront of the electric vehicle revolution thanks to its robust automotive manufacturing sector, supply chain capabilities, its highly trained workforce and its commitment to developing a reliable, fast-charging network,” said TDEC Commissioner David Salyers. “TVA’s participation in this coalition is a critical step in ensuring Tennessee’s fast charging network connects regionally and nationally, providing efficient transportation for future travelers while improving air quality in our state.”

The Electric Highway Coalition welcomes interested utilities to join as it seeks to extend the reach of network. Additionally, it supports, and looks forward to working with, other regional utility transportation corridor electrification initiatives.

The Arbor Day Foundation has named Middle Tennessee Electric a 2021 Tree Line USA®utility to honor its commitment to proper tree pruning, planting and care in the utility’s service area. This marks the third consecutive year MTE has earned this recognition.

“I am proud Team MTE has once again received this honor,” said MTE President and CEO Chris Jones. “I would like to congratulate the hard work and dedication of our Vegetation Management Team. The job they do greatly enhances the reliability of our system.”

Tree Line USA is a national program recognizing public and private utilities for practices that protect and enhance America’s urban forests. A collaboration of the Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters, Tree Line USA promotes the dual goals of delivering safe and reliable electricity while maintaining healthy community trees.

“Trees are a critical part of urban landscapes all across the United States,” said Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. “They provide important benefits to residents, including clean air, clean water and a tolerable climate. Service providers like Middle Tennessee Electric demonstrate it’s possible for trees and utilities to co-exist for the benefit of communities and citizens.”

MTE achieved Tree Line USA by meeting these five program standards:

  • Utilities must follow industry standards for quality tree care
  • Provide annual worker training in best tree care practices
  • Sponsor a tree planting and public education program
  • Maintain a tree-based energy conservation program
  • Participate in an Arbor Day celebration.

For more information on MTE’s Vegetation Management Program, please visit www.mtemc.com/VegetationManagement.

If you’d like to know more information about Tree Line USA, please visit  www.arborday.org/TreeLineUSA.

About Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE)
Founded in 1936, MTE is the largest electric cooperative in the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) region and the second largest in the United States, serving more than 600,000 Tennesseans via 310,000+ accounts covering nearly 2,200 square miles in 11 Middle Tennessee counties, primarily Rutherford, Cannon, Williamson and Wilson. Municipalities served include Murfreesboro, Franklin, Brentwood, Smyrna, Lavergne, Lebanon and Mt. Juliet. MTE employs 510 people in 7 local offices and its Murfreesboro corporate headquarters.

For more information, please visit www.mtemc.com.

###

For more information, please contact:
Amy Byers at 615-494-0407 or Amy.Byers@mtemc.com

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. 12 for the first 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.

Tradition and pride create effective outage restoration teams

By Paul Wesslund

When a big storm knocks out power for you and your neighbors, there’s a good chance help is already on the way from electric cooperatives near and far.

That lightning-fast response comes from a combination of a centuries-old co-op tradition, the latest in weather-forecasting technology, an ingenious contract between electric cooperatives and municipal utilities, and lineworkers’ spirit of dedication, pride and adventure.

When a power outage is caused by an especially severe natural disaster, the devastation can be more than your local electric co-op can quickly repair on its own. That’s when other co-ops swoop in, from next door and sometimes, from other states.

Perhaps you’ve seen them. They arrive in caravans of utility vehicles with military-like precision as part of a plan called a “Mutual Aid Agreement.”

The origins of the Mutual Aid Agreement can be traced back to 1844, even before there were electric utilities, when the first formally organized cooperative created a set of operating principles that included “Cooperation Among Cooperatives.”

When electric co-ops were formed in the 1930s, they used that handshake-style working arrangement to help each other with repairs after severe storm damage. But in the early 1990s, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requested a more legalistic accounting for the aid it provided electric cooperatives after natural disasters.

So electric co-ops, represented by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), got together with FEMA and the organization for city-owned utilities, the American Public Power Association, and produced a stunningly short contract—it’s exactly one page long. The contract says when one co-op goes to help another, it will charge reasonable rates for the crews and equipment.

The simplicity of that arrangement fits the tradition of co-ops cooperating with each other, says Martha Duggan, senior director for regulatory affairs with NRECA.

“It is a natural extension of who we are,” she says. “Helping each other is something we do naturally as part of our co-op family and our culture.”

A contract is one thing, but success means carrying it out effectively. To that end, Duggan says electric co-ops rely on their decades of experience. They share that experience with each other, and they meet regularly to keep procedures updated.

The response to your power outage can start days before it even happens, with co-ops tracking weather patterns that could knock down poles. They organize themselves under their own state associations, planning for how many line crews might be needed and where they will come from, and even making hotel reservations to house crews.

One recent, crucial update of the mutual aid procedure was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Duggan explains that keeping lineworkers safe from the virus can mean more time and more expense. She asks co-op members for extra patience as social distancing requirements mean changes––for example, only one lineworker per truck rather than two, and no more bunking multiple lineworkers in a hotel room.

In addition to the careful planning and procedures, there’s another secret ingredient to why co-ops come together in a crisis so effectively—the lineworkers. When they head out to a storm-ravaged area, it’s with a serious kind of excitement as they get ready to use their skills for a cause they passionately believe in—restoring electricity.

“It is a pride of workmanship,” says Duggan. “There is this sense of adventure to it, but there is also the sense of responsibility that this is what we do. We get the lights back on.”

Paul Wesslund writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

FBA Recognizes Gibson EMC’s and Gibson Connect’s Charles Phillips

TRENTON, Tenn.—  The Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) recently awarded the Dr. Charles Kao Award for Community Broadband to Charles Phillips, Gibson Electric Membership Corporation VP of Technical Services and Gibson Connect VP of Operations.  The award recognizes individuals, organizations, or companies that honor Dr. Kao’s innovation and connect communities with fiber optic technology.  In its communication, the FBA said Philips is receiving the award in recognition of his work with Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect to build a fiber network throughout the cooperative’s 12-county service area.”

“We are delighted to award Charles Phillips with this honor,” said Fiber Broadband Association President and CEO Gary Bolton. “In a time when connectivity is more important than ever, we commend Charles’ commitment to providing high-speed internet to his community through state-of-the-art fiber broadband.  Congratulations to Charles and the entire Gibson EMC cooperative.”

In his time with Gibson EMC, Phillips has worked extensively with neighboring utilities to create an interconnected regional fiber network that connects 20 distribution systems. This network of independently owned and maintained fiber systems has provided the backbone for a high-speed and low latency network for intra- and inter-utility traffic, as well as inter-utility fiber contracts.

“We are extremely proud of Charles and we appreciate his excellent leadership as Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect work to provide reliable, high-speed internet access to our consumer-members,” said Dan Rodamaker, President and CEO of Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect. “Making this essential service available creates exciting opportunities for our members and communities,” said Rodamaker, “and Charles has been instrumental in the successful implementation of this project.”

Phillips has been with Gibson EMC since 1997.  In addition to his role in the broadband buildout and telecommunications business, Phillips also manages the cooperative’s technical services division.

Gibson Connect is a wholly owned, not-for-profit subsidiary of Gibson EMC formed to provide high-speed internet access to Gibson EMC’s members.  Gibson EMC is a local, not-for-profit, member-owned and member-controlled cooperative serving almost 39,000 homes and businesses in eight west Tennessee counties (Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Haywood, Lake, Lauderdale, Obion and Madison) and four west Kentucky counties (Carlisle, Fulton, Graves and Hickman).

Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association holds virtual annual meeting

NASHVILLE – “Building a Brighter Tennessee” was the theme of the 79th annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association held Monday, Nov. 23. Though the event was held online, it allowed co-op leaders from across the state to receive industry and legislative updates and hear from Sen. Lamar Alexander and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

“I would like to thank each one of you for all you do for the 2.5 million homes, farms and businesses in rural and suburban Tennessee,” said Alexander in a video address to Tennessee co-ops. “Because of you, the lights stay on, our homes stay warm and cool and Tennesseans have even more access to the internet. You provide Tennesseans with electricity and service that are both reliable and affordable.”

Lee commended electric co-ops for their service to rural Tennessee. “The success of rural Tennessee is a priority that I share with you, and I see electric cooperatives playing a key role in accelerating the transformation of rural communities,” said Lee. “Thank you for your continued innovation and partnership as we work together to build a brighter Tennessee.

Also addressing the membership during the virtual meeting were Phillip Fulmer, athletic director and former head football coach for the University of Tennessee, and David Wasserman, house editor for the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

Co-ops are “building a brighter Tennessee” through investments in energy, broadband, education and community that create a solid foundation for future growth, development and prosperity. Rural Tennessee is stronger, more resilient and better prepared for the future thanks to the work of electric co-ops.

Addressing the membership during the President and General Manager’s Report, Kevin Murphy, CEO of Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation and board chair of TECA, highlighted the impact that co-op investment has on the people and places they serve. “Despite the uncertainties we face, it is safe to say that Tennessee’s future looks bright, and the work we do will play an important role in that future.”

TECA General Manager David Callis thanked electric co-op employees for their service during this difficult year. “As so much of the country shut down, co-ops went to work,” said Callis. “To each co-op employee who stepped up and did what needed to be done this year – possibly putting the well-being of yourself and your family at risk in the process – we salute you. In a time of darkness and fear, our employees provided light, hope, comfort and connection when it was needed most.”

Prior to the virtual meeting, an online business session and election was held to appoint new members to the association’s board of trustees. Elected to four-year terms were Richard Lacher, director for Tennessee Valley Electric Cooperative; Paul Thompson, CEO of Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation; and Hugh Rogers, director for Tri-State Electric Membership Corporation.

“We congratulate those selected to serve in leadership positions,” said Callis. “Your input, feedback and guidance help the association better meet the needs of our co-ops, and we are grateful for the board’s service.”

The TECA Top Tenn Communications Awards were also announced during the event. Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative received an award for Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section; Appalachian Electric Cooperative, Best Internal Newsletter; Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, Best Website; Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, Best Use of Social Media; and Fayetteville Public Utilities, Best Video. Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, Appalachian Electric Cooperative  and Gibson Electric Membership Corporation received Awards of Excellence in the Wild Card category.

“We are the people who build stuff,” said Callis. “We build infrastructure. We build connections. We build hope and opportunity. Electric co-ops build a brighter Tennessee.”

The virtual meeting and additional content will be available on the TECA website through the end of December. Visit tnelectric.org/am2020 to learn more.

Across Tennessee there are 3,500 electric lineworkers who put their lives on the line to bring power to homes, farms, hospitals, schools and factories across the state.

In 2019 the Tennessee’s electric cooperatives worked with state lawmakers to introduce a specialty license plate to honor the important work that Tennessee’s electric lineworkers do each day.

Funds raised through the sale of the Powering Tennessee specialty plates go to the Tennessee Lineworker Lifeline Fund, a nonprofit foundation established to support lineworkers and their families in the event of a serious injury or fatality while on the job.

While we hope that the funds never have to be used, but the foundation is ready to assist lineworkers and their families when tragedy strikes.

The Powering Tennessee specialty plates have been available for just over a year, and already hundreds of motorists in our service area are using the plates. You don’t have to be a lineman to order a plate, and we encourage you to join us in supporting Tennessee’s electric lineworkers. You can learn more about the Powering Tennessee specialty license plate, or learn how to order your own, at poweringtennessee.org.