HTL Advantage and VisionFirst Advisors Use JobsEQ to Bring Ford and SK Innovation to West Tennessee

HTL Advantage and VisionFirst used JobsEQ by Chmura to bring revolutionary EV manufacturing campus by Ford and SK Innovation to West Tennessee.


The Problem

The history of the Memphis Regional Megasite is extensive. Located halfway between Jackson and Memphis, Tennessee, this site was first identified in the early 2000s. HTL Advantage, an industrial development organization representing Haywood, Tipton, and Lauderdale counties in West Tennessee, was formed in 2009 and tasked with promoting the megasite to interested companies.

HTL Advantage and other partners worked diligently to build up the site’s infrastructure over nearly twenty years. Throughout this process, the team worked to promote their mega site. One big challenge HTL Advantage faced in bringing a company to the megasite was understanding the labor pool within a commuting distance. Up until this point, HTL Advantage had only looked at Haywood, Tipton, and Lauderdale counties in their labor pool analysis. In late 2019, they contacted VisionFirst Advisors to complete a comprehensive analysis of the local labor pool, and VisionFirst expanded their analysis to the eight counties surrounding the HTL area and the megasite, to get a more accurate reflection on the potential workforce that could commute to the site.


The Solution

In late 2020, the VisionFirst team, led by Greg Word, used JobsEQ software to complete their most in-depth analysis on the megasite to-date to promote the site to Ford and SK Innovation. Ford and SK Innovation were looking for a site to build an advanced automotive EV manufacturing campus, and the HTL Advantage team thought the Memphis Regional Megasite would be the perfect location for this revolutionary facility. This analysis focused specifically on the megasite but looked deeper at the data. Mark Herbison, President and CEO of HTL Advantage, credits this report as the “key to winning this project”.

VisionFirst’s three key areas of focus were to analyze whether the West Tennessee region has the workforce it needs today, whether the workforce is skilled or can be trained to meet the needs of a potential company, and if there is a steady pipeline of future talent in the region. To answer these questions, they used Chmura’s labor market research technology platform, JobsEQ to:

  • Get a clear picture of the West Tennessee workforce. They compared population, average annual growth, labor force size and participation rate within 45- and 90- minute drive times of the Memphis Regional Megasite.
  • Compare the region to similar automotive OEM project wins. VisionFirst took these data and compared them to data of sites in the Southeast who had successfully sited Toyota, Mercedes, and Volkswagen facilities. Having a side-by-side comparison of relevant sites was helpful. With these data, they were able to determine that the West Tennessee region was very competitive for a large automotive OEM project.
  • Get a 10-year historic economic snapshot of the region. To further explain their position, the team analyzed the data from the last ten years, to show how the region’s labor force participation rates have been outpacing both competitors’ and national rates.

How VisionFirst and HTL Advantage used JobsEQ to Win a Transformational Project

The team utilized JobsEQ in a variety of ways to tell the data story of West Tennessee to the Ford and SK Innovation representatives during the site selection process. Their ability to quickly collect data on talent availability in the region at the request of the SK Innovation representatives proved to be an advantage in their sales pitch.

The team gathered data for an in-depth report before the meeting, but SK Innovation wanted even more information on available talent near the megasite. The company requested a 30- and 45-minute drive time analysis; they were hesitant to believe potential employees would be willing to commute further than thirty minutes to the prospective BlueOval site. The team quickly gathered these data from JobsEQ and exported them onto a map to show a visual representation of the drive times, as well as a 90-minute drive time. By showing the manufacturing clusters on the map by place of residence and place of employment, the team demonstrated commute patterns for the local population. This analysis showed the 30-minute drive time area included two different MSAs, and proved that skilled manufacturing talent was willing to commute over 30 minutes to the Memphis Regional Megasite through commuting patterns.

One tool the team used to help tell their story through data was the What-if analytic within JobsEQ. They utilized the What-if analysis to review the data for the extended labor pool. This analysis collected a labor inventory of employees working in occupations associated with automobile manufacturing, primary battery manufacturing, and motor vehicle parts manufacturing within the 45- and 90- minute drive times. The What-if scenario listed employed individuals and unemployed workers employed or seeking employment in these roles, as well as employed and unemployed workers in roles with similar training, wages, and skills. This labor inventory provided the Ford and SK Innovation team with a clear snapshot of a large skilled talent pool with transferrable skills and backgrounds needed to be successful in the BlueOval City facility.

In addition to measuring the current workforce, VisionFirst used JobsEQ to show the sources of future talent. By highlighting the various educational institutions in the region, they established that there would be sustainable and long-term availability of skilled talent in the region. The team developed graphics detailing the educational attainment of the workforce, and how it compares to a company’s need in manufacturing. Having a surplus of talent with related certificates or degrees demonstrates a competitive advantage, and the team was able to demonstrate that the region had a surplus of talent, much of which could be re-skilled specifically for this facility.


The Chmura Difference

 Accurate and Accessible Data.

During the three-day tour of the region, company representatives had some reservations regarding the accuracy of the data presented. When discussing turnover rates, HTL Advantage cited a turnover rate for workers 24 years old and under with no educational attainment data (likely workers just entering the workforce) and the company representatives did not believe the data presented could be accurate.

The team was not worried- they knew their presentation was correct. Opening JobsEQ live in the middle of the presentation, they were able to prove with total transparency to the SK Innovation representatives that the data were in fact accurate. The ability to access these data quickly and efficiently was a huge asset in overcoming any reservations from the company representatives – they were able to verify in real time the data presented.


Ford and SK Innovation Bring Innovative Electric Vehicle Campus to West Tennessee

In September of 2021, Ford and SK Innovation announced their intent to locate BlueOval City at the Memphis Regional Mega Site, with plans to invest $5.6 billion in West Tennessee. The battery and vehicle manufacturing campus covers nearly six square miles and will encompass vehicle assembly, battery production, and a supplier park in a vertically integrated ecosystem. The facility, designed to be zero-waste to landfill, will bring an estimated 6,000 new jobs to the region and will revolutionize the local workforce.

Bringing BlueOval City to West Tennessee was a long and complex process that required many dedicated parties working together. Chmura is proud to partner with organizations like VisionFirst and HTL Advantage who utilize our products and services to transform their communities for the better. To learn more about how BlueOval City and how HTL Advantage and VisionFirst Advisors used JobsEQ to win, watch our webinar recording here. If you would like to join our community of JobsEQ users, schedule your demo today. We’d love to talk to you.

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