by Jon Styf
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development awarded more than $108.5 million in FastTrack economic development grants between 51 businesses in the first half of 2021, according to a database from the department.
The largest was a $60 million grant to Ultium Cells for its $2.3 billion investment to create 1,300 jobs with its 2.8-million-square-foot plant in Spring Hill to build vehicle battery cells.
Earlier this year, The Center Square reported that incentive amounted to more than $46,000 per job created, higher than the previous high of $21,500 per job, offered to Denso Manufacturing for its 2017 expansion in Blount County.
“This enormous investment supports our efforts in advanced manufacturing and strengthens our position as the leader of the electric vehicle industry in the Southeast,” TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe said at the announcement of the new Ultium plant.
At least 16 different projects were awarded at least $1 million in FastTrack grants so far in the first half of 2021. The grants are awarded for either job training projects, infrastructure development or come from the special economic development fund for “relocating equipment, purchasing equipment, building repairs and improvements, temporary office space or other temporary equipment related to relocation or expansion. These economic development funds are intended to be used in exceptional circumstances when the funds will make a proportionally significant economic impact on the affected community.”
Typically, TNECD will announce a new project, often with the amount of the company’s investment and size of the project. Then, within 15-30 days, the incentive amount of the FastTrack grant will be added to the department’s database.
A project announced last week from Chewy, Inc., however, did not include the size or cost of the expansion or the amount of the incentive awarded for what was supposed to be 1,200 new jobs created in Wilson County.
The other largest incentives so far this year were $4.75 million to Puritan Medical Products for its $200 million project creating 632 jobs in Robertson County and $3.5 million apiece for CGI Medical, Inc., in Knox County and NTT Data Services in Davidson County. Both of those were part of the FastTrack Job Assistance Training grants, which can be awarded to a company that is “developing a training plan including the number of people to be hired, types of skills required and types of training needed.”
Four $3 million grants went to Hydro-Gear Limited Partnership in Carroll County, Helen of Troy in Fayette County, Microvast Power Solutions in Montgomery County and PUREGraphite LLC in Hamilton County.
Hydro-Gear produces power equipment drive systems and will invest $10 million on a facility in Huntingdon.
“Supporting projects in our at-risk and distressed counties is a priority for TNECD, and a new company establishing operations in Carroll County will provide long term economic growth and opportunities for this community,” Rolfe said at the announcement. “These 375 new jobs will place Hydro-Gear as one of the top three employers in Carroll County, and we are thankful to everyone who played a role in bringing this successful company to Tennessee.”
Helen of Troy will be building a 2 million-square-foot facility in Gallaway that includes automation and direct-to-consumer fulfillment in a project expected to create 350 jobs and be open at the end of 2022.
“This massive new project is a game changer for Gallaway and we are thrilled to partner with Hillwood and Helen of Troy to bring jobs and capital investment to our city,” Gallaway Mayor Jamie Mayo said, while acknowledging the negotiations between the state, city, county and business that allowed the project to happen.
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Jon Styf is a contributor to The Center Square.