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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for July 21, 2023

All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.

We start with local news…

Ultium Cells Intensifies Recruitment Effort, Targets At Risk and Distressed Communities (RELEASE)

Ultium Cells, GM and LG’s joint venture EV battery manufacturing company, revealed today its talent acquisition strategy for operating its 2.8 million square foot plant. Needing a total employee count of 1,700 people when fully staffed, Ultium Cells will emphasize building long-term relationships with rural and often economically disadvantaged communities to the south, east and west of its factory.

For communities like Centerville, Mt. Pleasant, Summertown and Lewisburg, where nearby economic and career opportunities have been scarce, the relatively short commute is a welcome development. According to 2022 data from the Economic Innovation Group, the Ultium Cells facility is within a 45-minute drive of seven “At Risk” zip codes and under 1-hour from two “Distressed” zip codes. “Fortunately, Tennessee has been proactive in developing the educational infrastructure and talent Ultium Cells needs to operate,” said Plant Director Chris Desautels. Citing the expansion of vocational and community college access, Desautels believes Ultium Cells can help spread the opportunity of Tennessee’s thriving EV economy to economically disadvantaged parts of the state. “We hope to employ team members wherever they are in their educational journey,” Desautels said, before referencing the company’s tuition reimbursement program that allows employees “to pursue their education while working at the plant.”

To make the strategy work, Ultium Cells has been taking an in-person approach to talent acquisition, reaching out to local Chambers of Commerce, attending community events, volunteering with local organizations, and hosting multiple job fairs. “It’s definitely more challenging to generate interest organically,” Desautels says, “but we want to be a community partner as well as an economic driver, and that requires building long-term relationships with our neighbors.” Interested job seekers can find career openings at the company’s website,

Magna to be the First Supplier at Ford’s BlueOval City Supplier Park (RELEASE)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter announced today that Magna will invest more than $790 million to build the first two supplier facilities at Ford’s BlueOval City supplier park in Stanton, Tennessee.

In addition to the two West Tennessee locations, Magna will also build a stamping and assembly facility in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.

Combined, Magna will create approximately 1,300 new jobs in Tennessee.

“During the site selection process, Magna demonstrated excellence in corporate culture and shared with us their commitment to the community. These attributes reflect the core values of our business community. I am glad to welcome Magna to Lawrence County and look forward to supporting their operations,” Ryan Egly, president and CEO, Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, said.

“On behalf of the City Council, we are proud to welcome Magna to Lawrenceburg. Magna’s investment will create more than 250 high-quality jobs, building upon and accelerating the economic momentum our city has experienced over the last few years,” Lawrenceburg Mayor Blake Lay said.

Ford’s on-site supplier park will allow for vertical integration that helps ensure efficient production at BlueOval City, which will be capable of producing 500,000 electric trucks a year at full production. Magna will supply Ford’s BlueOval City with battery enclosures, truck frames and seats for the automaker’s second-generation electric truck.

Magna’s two facilities at BlueOval City supplier park include a new 800,000-square-foot frame and battery enclosures facility and a 140,000-square-foot seating facility.

The battery enclosures facility will join one of Magna’s sister plants in Ontario, Canada, which is currently producing battery enclosures for the Ford F-150 Lightning. The seating facility will produce polyurethane foam, and assemble and sequence “just-in-time” (JIT) complete seats.

Magna will employ approximately 750 employees at its battery enclosures facility and 300 employees at its new seating plant.

In addition, Magna will construct a new 400,000-square-foot stamping and assembly plant at the Team Lawrence Commerce Park – West, a Select Tennessee Certified Site in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, that will produce truck frames. Magna will employ roughly 250 employees at this location.

“Tennessee is leading the future of American automotive manufacturing, thanks to our thriving business climate, record economic growth and highly skilled workforce. We welcome Magna as the first supplier for Ford’s BlueOval City and appreciate this company’s $790 million investment in Tennessee, which will bring 1,300 jobs and new opportunities for families to thrive,” Gov. Bill Lee said.

Production at all three plants is scheduled to begin in 2025.

Those interested in applying for a position with Magna can visit

Tennessee has made significant strides in electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing with investments from companies like Magna. During Gov. Lee’s administration, more than $14.8 billion has been invested in Tennessee and nearly 11,000 new jobs have been committed through EV-related projects.

“Today, we celebrate a momentous day in Lawrence County’s history as we welcome Magna. This investment represents the beginning of a partnership that will benefit the whole region for years to come. I am pleased to welcome Magna to Lawrence County.” – Lawrence County Executive David Morgan

Maury Regional NICU welcomes back special visitors (RELEASE)

In October of 2006, the first baby was admitted to the newly opened neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Maury Regional Medical Center. Almost 17 years later, that baby — now a high schooler — and his family have an even greater connection with the hospital where he spent his first few weeks.

On July 4, parents Bryan and Bridget Zaidan and older brother Jordan took baby Laikyn home from Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) for the first time.

Laikyn was born June 26, five weeks premature, and she spent several days in the care of the specialists in the NICU. While a stay in the NICU can be difficult for any baby’s parents, the Zaidans had good reason to believe Laikyn was in excellent hands.

Jordan was born on Oct. 9, 2006, at MRMC two months premature. He was the first baby ever admitted to the NICU at MRMC, which officially opened on Oct. 16, 2006.

The care Jordan received in the NICU gave the Zaidans confidence Laikyn would have the same experience — especially considering she was under the care of the same physician, Donna Whitney, MD, a specialist in neonatology on the Maury Regional medical staff.

“It definitely feels like déjà vu,” Bryan said. “It obviously worked out well the first time, and we had full faith this time would be the same. It’s convenient, confident care here. For us, it was relieving that we knew what was coming, and we had a level of confidence that we knew she was getting good care.”

Being able to hold Laikyn in the NICU was a fulfilling moment for Jordan, who turns 17 this year and is a rising junior at Spring Hill High School.

“It was exciting — she kept giving me a side-eye and funny looks,” he said. “It does give me some pride that she was born here.”

It also was a special moment for Dr. Whitney, who’s seen the NICU at MRMC grow drastically since she cared for Jordan way back in 2006.

“It’s always very rewarding to see patients that have graduated and been in our care doing well in the world,” Dr. Whitney said. “It really is an honor to serve our patients in this community. That was our goal in having the NICU here, so that patients can be cared for closer to home.

The NICU at MRMC is a Level II neonatal intensive care unit with providers certified in many clinical specialties, including neonatology physicians and neonatal nurse practitioners provided by Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Specialized care is provided to newborns with a wide variety of health conditions, such as prematurity, respiratory problems and infections.

In the 17 years since opening the unit, the specialists in the NICU at MRMC have operated with a dedication to providing the best and most compassionate care possible. That didn’t go unnoticed by the Zaidans.

“Dr. Whitney and all of the nurses in the NICU were all so amazing,” Bridget said. “Just knowing that every day [Laikyn] was very well taken care of and that they had answers to any questions I had made me feel better as a new mother, and we appreciate everything they did for her.”

MRMC has been recognized with a “BEST for Babies” award from the Tennessee Hospital Association four consecutive years. It also earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for Perinatal Care Certification.

The fourth floor of the medical center is entirely dedicated to childbirth and gynecological care, offering spacious suites where mothers can experience labor, delivery and recovery in comfort and privacy. The MRMC Mother/Baby Unit also practices couplet care, allowing babies to room-in with their mothers to enhance the early bonding experience.

For more information about the NICU and other childbirth services offered at MRMC, visit

And now a look at your hometown memorials, brought to you by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home …

Mrs. Mary Jane Galloway Moody, 80, retired employee of Travelers Insurance Company and resident of Houston, Texas died Sunday, February 12, 2023 following a brief illness. A graveside service for Mrs. Moody will be conducted Saturday, July 29, at 10:00 a.m. at Polk Memorial Gardens to lay her to rest beside her husband. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

We now go to statewide headlines…


The Tennessee Department of Health and community partners across the state will come together to participate in the Red Sand Project July 25 to 31, 2023, for the fifth consecutive year.

‘’Human trafficking is a hidden crime in our state and across the country because victims rarely come forward to receive help or services,’’ said Tennessee Health Commissioner Ralph Alvarado, MD, FACP. ‘’It’s up to all of us to bring an end to the exploitation of vulnerable individuals. The Red Sand Project reminds us how crucial it is for communities, both urban and rural, to engage in awareness and education activities that support survivors of human trafficking and strengthen our prevention efforts.”

The Red Sand Project is an interactive art exhibition where community members, individually or collectively, pour red sand into the cracks of sidewalks to show how the survivors of human trafficking fall through the cracks of society.

Communities across Tennessee will use Red Sand Project events also as opportunities to create art installations, pouring natural, non-toxic red sand into sidewalk cracks, and to host human trafficking educational events and provide information about resources.

Tennessee’s local health departments,, will have information about Red Sand Project events in their communities. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development also will have Red Sand Project event information available at their Welcome Centers across the state,

Contact the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-855-558-6484, if you know someone who needs help to escape trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or text 233722, can also provide information on local community resources.

For more information on human trafficking visit

86% of 3rd grade appeals approved (WATE)

The Tennessee Department of Education released final data about the third-grade retention appeals after the window for submission closed on June 30.

According to the TDE, the department received 10,572 appeal forms representing 9,054 unique students. Out of the 9,054 students, 7,812 appeals were approved and 685 were denied.

TDE added 557 appeals were considered “not applicable.”

“Throughout the summer, students, as well as their families, have remained engaged in making the best possible decisions about their education, seeking out academic support in summer camp and tutoring during the upcoming school year,” said Lizzette Reynolds, commissioner of education. “Looking ahead, the department will continue to support districts and schools to ensure all students can get a great education in the coming school year, through strong classroom instruction and additional learning supports like tutoring.”

The department said they plan to release information in regard to the third-grade students who completed the summer camp promotion pathway requirements.

In 2021, the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act was passed which does not allow third-grade students to move forward to the fourth grade if they do not pass the English Language Arts (ELA) portion of their Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program. The legislation was proposed by Gov. Bill Lee.

Third-grade students who scored “approaching” or “below” on the ELA portion of the exam could retake the TCAP assessment, and attend a free summer camp and/or tutoring in the upcoming school year to continue to the fourth grade.

If a third-grade student received an “approaching” score, their parent could submit an appeal within 14 days of receiving the decision of potential retention from their child’s school.

Statewide averages for third-grade ELA scores were released on May 22, district-level ELA performance scores were released on May 24 and TCAP retake scores were released on June 7.

According to the TCAP retakes, 44,395 third-grade students were eligible to participate in the retake and 26,239 eligible students took the TCAP retake assessment.

Statewide, 12.77% of students scored “proficient” on the retake. Knox County Schools had a total proficiency of 42.9% with 23.98% being “below,” 33.12% being “approaching,” 27.74% being “meets” and 15.16% being “exceeds.”

MCPS brings forth new rule for fans at TSSAA events (MS Maury)

Tennessee high school sports fans will soon need to be on – if not their best behavior, certainly better than they’ve been on over the last couple of years.

And failure to do so could be costly.

Chris Poynter, athletics director for Maury County Public Schools, made a presentation to the Legislative Council of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association outlining a “fan ban” proposal earlier this year, and it was approved by the board at its most recent meeting.

“We have to come up with something so that folks can understand, there’s a certain decorum you’ve got to have as a fan,” Poynter said. “There ought to be something very consistent, with some continuity across the state.

“If (officials) have to stop what they’re doing and can identify you as a fan in the crowd, then there should be some disciplinary action to come down from that. You’re standing up in the stands, you’re making yourself known, you’re continuing to push the envelope because you don’t think anything can happen to you. So what if they toss you from the game. ‘I’ll be back tomorrow doing the same thing’.

“We’ve got to have something across the state to address this fan decorum. If a fan chooses to earn their way out by being that level of blatantly disrespectful to officials, coaches, administrators or whoever, and they’re tossed from the game, there’s going to be a repercussion as a result.”

TSSAA executive director Mark Reeves agreed, as did the Council.

“Our member schools have told us, ‘I wish we had something in the book that we could go back to’ when they have these issues that arise with fans that have been ejected, that we can go back and say the penalty for a fan that’s been removed from a contest is XYZ,” Reeves said following the meeting. “We have that for coaches and players that have been ejected. As an administrator, we feel like it would be helpful to have something like that for fans.

“(Poynter) wanted to, at the very least, start a conversation about creating some type of standardization in terms of what penalties look like, and for us as an organization to send a strong message to fans who are ejected from contests.”

The governing authority on high school sports said its legislative council adopted a rule allowing fines of at least $250 when it has a fan ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct during a contest. The new rule also includes the possibility of other non-monetary disciplinary action, including probation and/or restrictive probation for the entire athletic program, according to TSSAA.

Additionally, the TSSAA said unsportsmanlike conduct by fans will also net a $250 fine if they come onto the field or floor during an incident.

Reeves said the number of fan ejections at TSSAA contests this school year has nearly matched the number from last year, with more than a month remaining, and that the 2021-22 number was nearly double that of any previous year.

And now a look at today’s final stories …

Columbia State Establishes Nancy Coghlan Nursing Endowment (RELEASE)

The Columbia State Community College Foundation recently established a new nursing scholarship endowment in honor of Nancy Coghlan.

Thomas Coghlan created the endowed scholarship in memory and honor of his wife, Nancy Johnson Coghlan. Mrs. Coghlan was born in Hickman County, but raised in Santa Fe and Columbia where she eventually graduated from Central High School. After completing post-secondary training, she worked as a registered nurse for thirty years and was very active in the community.

“We thank Mr. Coghlan for honoring his wife’s memory by helping students that want to become nurses,” said Bethany Lay, Columbia State vice president for advancement and executive director of the Columbia State Foundation. “By doing so, many people in our communities will be helped. Columbia State’s health sciences programs are strong and skilled, caring nurses are needed.”

The scholarship will assist Columbia State students from Maury or Hickman Counties that have been accepted into the nursing program.

The Columbia State Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that supports and partners with the college to positively impact student success and the communities in which it serves.

Columbia State Med Lab Student Chosen for American Medical Technologists Scholarship (RELEASE)

Columbia State Community College medical laboratory technology student Noah Wright was recently chosen for a national American Medical Technologists scholarship.

“I feel great to have received a scholarship from AMT,” said Wright. “It’s a sought-after organization that gives dependable certifications and support to medical professionals nationally. To represent Columbia State students with an award from AMT feels fantastic!”

The American Medical Technologists is a nonprofit organization for allied health professionals that awards several scholarships annually to students and members. Wright is the only Columbia State student to receive the scholarship.

“Noah's voluntary involvement with the MLAB Advisory Committee demonstrates an investment in individual and programmatic continuous improvement,” said Dr. Kae Fleming, Columbia State dean of Health Sciences Division and professor of radiologic technology.

A Columbia resident and member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society, Wright plans to go right into the workforce at Maury Regional Medical Center following graduation. He eventually plans to complete his bachelor’s degree in medical technology following more experience. Wright comes from a family of Columbia State graduates, with his father, mother and brother all being alumni.

“We are very excited for Noah for receiving this AMT award scholarship,” said Lisa Harmon, Columbia State program director and assistant professor of medical laboratory technology. “We encourage all of our MLAB students to apply for these scholarships offered by various organizations that support our profession.”

“Columbia State has prepared me by pushing me academically and finding ways to traverse challenges in the field and life in general,” Wright said. “The school has shown me what I truly like in a profession, especially medical technology.”

Medical laboratory technology students are eligible for Tennessee Promise, Tennessee Reconnect, scholarships and other forms of financial aid. In-field employment for graduates is consistently guaranteed and often includes a sign-on bonus. Columbia State’s medical laboratory technician program is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science.

For more information about the medical laboratory technology program at Columbia State, visit


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