Axios Nashville

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October 21, 2021

Greetings Axios Nashville family! Let's get our Thursday started together.

Today's newsletter is 909 words β€” a 3.4-minute read.

1 big thing: Ford deal clears $884 million hurdle

Gov. Bill Lee talking at a table.
Gov. Bill Lee. Photo: Houston Cofield/Bloomberg via Getty Images

State leaders struck a triumphant tone Wednesday after legislators approved the $5.6 billion Ford production complex in West Tennessee.

Why it matters: The Ford plant is the single-largest economic development deal in state history and puts Tennessee at the forefront of electric vehicle manufacturing.

  • It also represents a long-sought investment in West Tennessee. Three governors worked to attract companies to the Memphis Regional Megasite that will now be home to Ford's Blue Oval City complex.

What they're saying: Gov. Bill Lee and other leaders said the Ford deal was nothing short of historic.

  • "There are a few days that feel as significant and important as a day like today," Lee told reporters after the deal was approved. "We should all be very proud of our state."
  • "This is something for all of us. It’s not red, it’s not blue," state Sen. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, said Wednesday during a floor session. "This project has the potential not just to transform lives but to transform generations."

The big picture: Lawmakers from West Tennessee were particularly enthusiastic about the deal, saying it offered a vital infusion of quality jobs to a beleaguered region.

  • Lee said the megasite development once operational would lead to more than 27,000 new direct and indirect jobs, in addition to tens of thousands of temporary construction jobs.
  • Production of all-electric F-Series trucks will begin on the West Tennessee campus in 2025, according to a state news release.

By the numbers: The legislature approved $500 million in incentives for Ford in addition to millions for projects related to the deal.

  • $200 million will go toward road construction in and around the site.
  • About $138 million will go toward construction and demolition needs.
  • $40 million will go toward establishing a new on-site technical college location that could be a major employment pipeline for the plant.

2. Hagerty backs Emanuel nomination

Sen. Bill Hagerty sits at a table during a hearing
Sen. Bill Hagerty. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Bill Hagerty reached across the aisle Wednesday to offer vital support for President Biden's nomination of former Congress member and ex-Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel to be the next ambassador to Japan.

Why it matters: Hagerty was himself an ambassador to Japan, making his support even more notable. He took the unique step of personally introducing Emanuel, a Democrat, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

  • Axios' Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene prior to the committee hearing previewed Hagerty's endorsement, pointing out that progressive activists are pressuring liberal senators to oppose Emanuel's confirmation, which makes support from key Republicans crucial.

What they're saying: Hagerty told the committee he was convinced to support the confirmation after recent conversations in which Emanuel proved that he "shares my unwavering conviction that the U.S.-Japan relationship is the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the entire Indo-Pacific region β€” a region that is becoming ever more dangerous by the day."

Of note: Emanuel told Hagerty during the hearing that if confirmed, he will work to bring home Greg Kelly, the Tennessee resident and ex-Nissan executive who has been detained in Japan for three years following accusations of financial misconduct.

  • Hagerty bashed Japan for its "unfair and barbaric treatment in the so-called 'hostage justice system' " as "cruel," "inhumane" and "unjust."
  • "You have my word, as I said to you privately, I’m saying it publicly," Emanuel said of working to bring Kelly home.

3. Belmont pulls in another big donation

Iconic belmont university bell tower in the heart of campus
Photo courtesy of Belmont University

Belmont University announced on Wednesday it received a $10 million donation to support its new medical school.

  • The gift came from long-time boosters Milton and Denice Johnson. Milton Johnson chairs the Belmont board and is the former CEO of HCA Healthcare.

Why it matters: Belmont established itself as a fundraising juggernaut under former president Bob Fisher. This announcement on the heels of Fisher's departure in May signals the university's continued strength in that space.

  • Belmont rapidly expanded its enrollment and campus footprint as big-ticket donations poured in over the last decade. Earlier this year, ahead of Fisher's retirement, Belmont said it raised more than $326 million during a five-year fundraising drive.
  • Plans for the new medical school were announced last year.

The details: The Johnsons dedicated their latest donation to HCA co-founder Thomas F. Frist, Jr., who is also the medical school's namesake.

  • Belmont is establishing its college of medicine in partnership with HCA, which owns 187 hospitals across the country and in the United Kingdom.
  • The university is pursuing accreditation for the medical school.

Flashback: The Johnsons have already given millions to Belmont.

4. The Setlist

Illustration of a neon sign in the shape of an arrow reading "THE SETLIST."
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏫 Gov. Lee's administration settled on an all-Republican steering committee for a review of public school funding. (The Tennessean)

β›ͺ A Nashville man pleaded guilty Wednesday to civil rights violations related to four church arsons in 2019. (U.S. Department of Justice)

πŸ₯ Former Trump administration official Brad Smith was named executive chairman of Nashville start-up CareBridge Health. (Nashville Business Journal)

Nashville homelessness administrator Judith Tackett resigned. (Nashville Scene)

5. Titans move up in rankings

Table: Axios Visuals
Table: Axios Visuals

The Titans' monumental victory over the Bills on Monday Night Football propelled them up Axios Sports' most recent NFL power rankings.

  • The first-place team in the AFC South moved up three spots to No. 10 in the rankings.

What's next: The Titans won't get much of a break after beating Buffalo. They play the Chiefs, Rams and Saints in three of the next four games.

πŸ— Nate is preparing for a trip to Jacks Creek Bar-B-Que in West Tennessee. The two-hour journey was suggested by a reader after Axios profiled the Joelton barbecue joint Wise Guy's. Keep the BBQ recs coming!

πŸ€‘ Adam is finally listening to his mother β€” and almost everyone else β€” and starting a binge watch of "Succession."