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Ford Invests Further In Wellbeing At Blue Oval City. Tesla Should Probably Take Note

The production of EVs is a large-scale undertaking that requires significant industrial efforts. To meet the demand, Tesla has built gigafactories in several countries. Other companies who want to be future players are also expanding their global supply and production networks. However, we haven’t seen anyone build an entire city’s worth of production, at least until Ford announced Blue Oval City in September.

Only a year after agreeing to do so, Ford and SK On have invested $5.6 billion in order to build an electric truck and batteries for future Ford and Lincoln vehicles in West Tennessee. By 2025, when production begins on the 6-square-mile mega campus, approximately 6,000 new jobs will be created.

“Ford’s historic investment in West Tennessee is a testament to our state’s strong business climate and unmatched workforce,” said Governor Bill Lee at the time. “BlueOval City will have a transformational impact on Tennesseans and our economy, and we’re proud this global company will call Haywood County home.”

At the time, the company announced that it wanted to do more than get a factory and a city to support it running in West Tennessee. Ford is staying involved in various West Tennessee communities by holding livestreamed discussions and participating in collaborative projects. Most significantly, the company has partnered with the University of Tennessee to restore stream waters flowing through the school’s Lone Oaks Farm and expand STEM education opportunities for students from kindergarten to 12th grade across the state.

Now, they’re taking things to the next level when it comes to making sure that the people and not just the factory are well in the area. In a recent press release, Ford announced some new programs to support non-profits in the area.

Ford Motor Company Fund is improving local communities in West Tennessee with a new $1 million capital grants program. The company’s philanthropic arm will help strengthen and improve infrastructure, an especially important endeavor now that Ford’s new electric vehicle manufacturing campus BlueOval City is underway.

The following Tennessee counties will have access to $1 million in capital grants, which are exempt from taxes and designed to fund construction projects like building renovations and land preservation: Haywood, Fayette, Tipton, Lauderdale, Shelby, and Madison. These funds usually go towards nonprofits or municipalities.

“Community has always come first for Ford, and we are staying true to our legacy of giving back by investing in our new Tennessee neighbors,” said Mike Schmidt, director of Programs at Ford Motor Company Fund. “Our goal is to ensure that the communities where we build benefit from the investments we’re making and the jobs that Ford and SK On are creating.”

The grants, which will amount to $25,000-$100,000, are meant to finance physical infrastructure projects in the area like playground construction and renovations of existing community spaces. The Ford Fund’s capital grants program builds on the company’s existing philanthropic support in West Tennessee, including the Lorraine Civil Rights Museum and National Urban League in Memphis.

Applications are due Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, and applicants will be notified of the results by early April. To apply for a capital grant, organizations should visit the Ford Fund’s website. United Way of West Tennessee can act as a monetary sponsor for combinations and groups that are not tax exempt. Those lacking 501c3 expense status should email and incorporate “Ford Fund Capital Grant” in the headlines when transmitting an email referencing applying to the Capital Grant Program through United Way’s site.

Employee Well-Being Is Company Well-Being

I know that some “hard core” types who think we should all grind ourselves to the bone and destroy ourselves for our bosses will think this is all “woke” nonsense, but that couldn’t be further from the case. Doing things to keep the community around a big factory stable, and taking care of your employees and their families, can very much be profitable.

The fact is, you don’t just want quantity of work from employees. Anybody can sit at a desk and play Solitaire or watch cat videos for 80 hours a week. That doesn’t mean they’re actually doing anything that makes the company make more money or impress their customers. Even if you’re not screwing around for 80 hours a week, working for 80 hours at half-pace isn’t any better than putting in a good, solid 40 hours of work.

How’s a worker who doesn’t get good sleep supposed to put in solid work? What about an employee who’s worried about their kid who got into drugs and ran away? Are they going to be their best? There are so many things that could just eviscerate productivity in a plant that lie just outside its walls.

The First Bridge Over The Mississippi River, image by Ganesha811 (CC-BY-SA 4.0).

The above picture shows the first bridge that spans the Mississippi River, only a few yards from its source at Lake Itasca, Minnesota. According to Wikipedia, this is the only log bridge that spans the river. I’d imagine that the cost of constructing this bridge was extremely low. By catching the river early, it didn’t take much to get across it.

The I-20 Bridge from Vicksburg, Mississippi. Photo by Jennifer Sensiba.

But, you’re not going to cross that river in Mississippi or Louisiana nearly as cheaply. You’re talking about a multi-million dollar project just to get a water pipe or some power lines over it. Pedestrian bridges cost more. Bridges for interstate highways and railroads are even more expensive.

I don’t know about you, but if I had to solve a big problem, I’d rather solve it early upstream when it’s small. I’d rather invest relative pocket change in prevention than have to pay for the pound of cure that comes after things fester and fall apart.

For example, you can bet that Tesla wishes it could have spent a few thousand bucks training employees to not engage in racism and discrimination after it ended up paying out $15 million (and Tesla was fortunate a judge slashed it from the original $137M). I’ve read that factory workers get pushed really hard at Tesla, especially among executives, and even more especially among those that report directly to Elon Musk.

It seems very unlikely that exhausted, overwhelmed factory workers and executives who can’t stick around doesn’t cost Tesla something. Making things better may cost the company something, but it’s probably a lot cheaper than the cost of letting these problems sit and rot.

Featured image provided by Ford.

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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.


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