CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Quietly, over the last seven months, a plan has been in the works to turn over a piece of land that was once a family farm and transform it into an opportunity to provide 850 high-paying jobs.
"We knew right away that this was something we wanted for this community," said Shea Hopkins, Executive Director of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Industrial Development Board. "Something this large is hard to keep under wraps."
Monday, the state of Tennessee announced that LG Chem, a South Korean sister company of LG Electronics, will invest $3 billion into building a cathode plant that makes key components of electric vehicle batteries.
"This will be enough material to power approximately 1.2 million high-performance electric vehicle batteries," said Hak Cheol Shin, CEO of LG Chem.
LG Chem actually picked the Montgomery area out of 20 different sites across the world, in part due to their close access to electricity and a railroad line near the property off of Guthrie Highway.
"We knew we were all in to try to win this project pretty much from day one," said Hopkins.
Hopkins was one of the many in the boardroom hammering out a deal.
"I think we’ll continue to see looks because of this project," she said.
It could be a big game changer for a growing Clarksville-Montgomery County region that has sometimes struggled to retain natives and retiring Fort Campbell soldiers rather than seeing them leave the area for higher-paying jobs.
"We want to be the whole 'quality of life' picture. We want you to be able to live, work, and play here, and I think this is definitely a step in the right direction for that," said Hopkins.
When the plant opens in 2025, LG Chem plans to have the starting pay at $25 an hour and nearly a fourth of the jobs will pay six figures.
"This really gives those soldiers that are transitioning out a place to land; that isn’t just a job: it’s a career," she said.
They'll also turn to nearby Austin Peay State University to help train some of the local workforce.
"They’re creating a wonderful pipeline with their engineering programs that we know will be able to fulfill a lot of those positions," said Hopkins.
While she didn't give specifics, Hopkins said there are clawback provisions to make sure LG Chem holds up its end of the deal.
"They know what the capital investment and the job numbers need to stay at, so they’re already committed to us on that as well as the state," she said.
If everything goes according to plan, in just a few years, the once-quiet farmland will be helping Americans rev their engines.
"Absolutely EV is in our future, it’s going to continue to grow and thrive," said Hopkins.
Tennessee is quickly becoming a leader when it comes to electric vehicle manufacturing. Right now in West Tennessee, construction continues on Ford's Blue Oval City, which will manufacture an all-electric version of the F-150.