ennessee’s manufacturing sector can’t help but talk in the billions.
Since 2017, manufacturing is responsible for more than $16.8 billion in capital investment in the state, adding 32,000 new jobs and solidifying over 153,000 jobs in those five years.
Conway Data’s Projects Database showed 71 qualifying manufacturing projects had been announced between January 2022 and early December, adding to or expanding the over 2,600 manufacturing establishments in the state.
The biggest on that list? A $3 billion investment from LG Chem, $1.6 billion from Hankook Tire, $582 million from Piedmont Lithium and $550 million from Bridgestone Americas.
Those four projects alone scored the state over $5.7 billion in five months.
For Allen Borden, deputy commissioner of business, community and rural development for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD), announcements like these signify the state plays an important role in strengthening its brands.
“On an annual basis, with little change by year, roughly 25% of our projects are new investment and about 75% are great expansions like Hankook Tire that have invested in our state and employed Tennesseans for many years,” says Borden.
“We not only want to get the investment the first time, but there is just as much importance in working with these companies once we get them here to continue to help them grow,” he says. “If they grow and expand, investing additional capital in our state, then how are we going to help them have workers available to run their plants and so on?”
Helping them have shovel-ready sites available is on the state's mind too. On January 5, TNECD added three new sites in Morristown, Lafayette and Hartsfield to its Select Tennessee Certified Sites program, whose roster now includes no fewer than 70 sites to choose from.
Welcome to Clarksville
The manufacturing project that brought the biggest investment to Tennessee in 2022 was from LG Chem, a South Korea–based chemical company. The $3 billion investment will build the largest cathode manufacturing plant in the U.S. in Clarksville, Tennessee, 48 miles northwest of Nashville, producing material for EV batteries.
“People take notice when global brands choose to commit and invest capital in our state,” says Borden. “In the case of LG Chem, it’s certainly a shock heard around the world, and not just for the automotive industry. What makes Tennessee’s brand so strong are the brands of global companies that choose to invest in our state.”
Tennessee was a strategic location for the company. Proximity to customers, logistics ease and state and local support were key factors in their site selection process, according to the company’s official press release.
Construction at the 425-acre sitewill begin in 2023, with completion slated for late 2025. This facility will feature technology that will automate the entire production process, powered completely by solar and hydroelectric power.
Once operational, the plant will produce advanced NCMA cathode materials which contain nickel, cobalt, manganese and aluminum to power EV batteries with improved capacity and stability.
By 2027, LG Chem anticipates a target of 120,000 tons of cathode material annually. This target will support batteries for 1.2 million EVs with a range of 310 miles per charge.
“The new cathode manufacturing facility in Tennessee brings us one step closer to becoming the world’s best battery materials manufacturer and fulfilling our corporate vision to become a top global science company,” said LG Chem CEO Shin Hak-Cheol. "This site will be the North American manufacturing center of excellence for the cathode supply chain and lead to the creation of many well-paying jobs, contributing to the local economy in Clarksville."
Bridging the Gap
For 32 years, Bridgestone Americas’ flagship truck and radial tire plant in Warren County, Tennessee, has played a vital role in the company’s manufacturing operations.
“The Warren County plant is one of the company’s most productive operations globally,” says Bridgestone Americas Director of Manufacturing Communications Emily Weaver.
Having produced 70 million tires as of October 2021, it was time for a facelift to the 1.97-million-sq.-ft. facility. A procedure worth $550 million was announced in August 2022, integrating innovative technology to optimize tire data, while keeping sustainability top of mind.
“What makes Tennessee’s brand so strong are the brands of global companies that choose to invest in our state.” — Allen Borden, Deputy Commissioner of Business, Community and Rural Development, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
The 850,000-sq.-ft. expansion is expected to be complete by Q2 2024, growing the campus to over 2.8 million sq. ft. The massive increase in space will aid the company in increasing daily output to meet growing demand in the commercial vehicle sector.
Moving forward, tires produced here will feature radio frequency identification tags and tire-mounted sensors for digital readiness of tires and data-driven insights, making fleet tire investments and management more efficient for consumers.
“Additionally, we’re investing in AI technology that increases productivity and the application of knowledge and data in a digital manufacturing environment,” says Weaver. “These technologies enable our customers to drive additional efficiencies in their supply chain execution and will help accelerate the company’s progress towards its sustainability goals.”
The new technology will be integrated within the plant’s existing technical systems. I asked Weaver if this would require upskilling for present employees. She says existing and future roles require operators with advanced skillsets with the ability to interact and direct advanced automation systems.
In other words, workforce readiness isn’t a question here.
Increased productivity means more hands on deck in Morrison, Tennessee. Bridgestone’s team of 1,100 will grow to 1,400, as 380 new jobs are created in town.
The scope of Bridgestone’s success manufacturing in the state would not be possible without the committed partnership the company has formed with state and local officials, which Weaver says is an essential element to the plant’s continued success.
“We are proud of our team for their 32 years of manufacturing excellence in Warren County,” said Bridgestone Americas CEO Scott Damon at the company’s announcement in August, “and our continued success is a tribute to the Warren teammates who remain driven and committed to providing our customers with the best truck and bus tires in the world.”
|Company Name||Target City||Sector||Category||Investment (Million USD)||Jobs Created|
|LG Chem, Ltd.||Clarksville||Electronics||New||3000||850|
|Piedmont Lithium Carolinas, Inc.||Englewood||Chemicals & Plastics||New||582||117|
|Bridgestone Americas, Inc.||Morrison||Chemicals & Plastics||Expansion||550||380|
|Triso-X, LLC||Oak Ridge||Chemicals & Plastics||New||300||400|
|Ultium Cells LLC||Spring Hill||Electronics||Expansion||275||400|
|Portobello America Inc.||Baxter||Machinery, Equip. & Const.||New||150||200|
|Mhr Fund Management LLC||Memphis||Metals||New||112.5||400|
|Duksan Electera America, Inc.||Shelbyville||Chemicals & Plastics||New||95||101|
|Kewpie Corp.||Clarksville||Food & Beverage||New||65||85|
|Monogram Food Solutions, LLC||Dickson||Food & Beverage||New||53||400|
|Memphis Record Pressing LLC||Bartlett||IT & Comm.||Expansion||21||172|
|Builders Firstsource, Inc.||Tullahoma||Wood Products||New||20.3||120|
|ATC Drivetrain, LLC||Knoxville||Automotive||New||8.3||218|
|Parkway Products, LLC||Greeneville||Chemicals & Plastics||Expansion||5.7||160|
|Columbiad Fabrication and Aviation, LLC||Puryear||Metals||New||4.8||144|
|Tritium DCFC Ltd||Lebanon||Automotive||New||na||500|
|Apollo Medical Products||McMinnville||Life Sciences||New||na||200|