Let’s hope Ford’s Blue Oval City fares better than the company founder’s Fordlandia project of a former era.
This past week Ford announced plans for the Blue Oval City, an $11.4-billion investment in a mega campus in Tennessee and twin battery plants in Kentucky. The “city” would employ 11,000 people and power a new lineup of advanced electric vehicles, Ford said.
For some, the announcement kindled memories of Fordlandia, Henry Ford’s failed effort in the 1920s to create a city in the Brazilian Amazon forest to produce rubber. What the effort did produce was an award-winning book, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City, by New York University professor Greg Grandin. And in that book, Grandin also notes other attempts by Henry Ford to establish cities, from River Rouge and Alberta in Michigan to his proposal for Muscle Shoals, a city in Alabama on the Tennessee River.
By the way, Ford wasn’t the only automaker in the city-establishment business. Oldsmar, established in Florida by Ransom E. Olds, celebrated its centennial in 2016.
Nearly a century later, Ford’s dream may be coming true, though not on the Tennessee River but near Stanton, northeast of Memphis, at Blue Oval City, which also appears to stretch some 300 miles to the northeast, to Glendale, Kentucky, just south of Louisville.
Henry Ford’s Muscle Shoals was planned for a narrow strip that would have stretched 75 miles along the riverbank.
The new Ford plan calls for Blue Oval City on a 6-square-mile site in Tennessee to produce electric-powered F-Series pickup trucks. In Kentucky, BlueOvalSK Battery Park would have twin battery production facilities for use in Ford and Lincoln EVs. A third battery park plant would also be part of the Tennessee project.
Ford said the Kentucky location was chosen because it is centrally located for supplying a variety of Ford assembly plants in North America.
The SK in the battery park name represents SK Innovation, a South Korean energy company that is Ford’s partner in the project.
Ford also announced a major project to train auto technicians for working on its growing portfolio of connected electric vehicles.