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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for October 6, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Batteries Loom Over Strike (Tennessean)

The United Auto Workers strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis is about money. It is about cost of living increases. It is about job security for the men and women who build the cars. But the issue looming behind many of those demands, for both the companies and the workers, is the transition to electric vehicles.

“For Detroit automakers, EVs are absolutely central to the strike. They are headed into this unknown future into which they’re pouring billions of dollars,” said Micheline Maynard, a longtime auto journalist and publisher of the Substack newsletter “Intersection: Everything That Moves.”

The UAW strike has not yet reached Tennessee. And most of the state’s auto workers do not belong to a union. But Tennessee and the rest of the South are where legacy car makers are building their battery-fueled future. What is taking shape in the South, sometimes called the “battery belt,” is on the minds of union leaders. And the outcome of the UAW strike could have consequences for Tennessee workers.

Elon Musk’s upstart Tesla continues to dominate the EV market, making more than half of the electric automobiles sold in the U.S. Tesla’s factories are in California, Nevada and Texas. But many other car makers, from BMW in South Carolina, Kia in Georgia and Ford in Kentucky, are either already making EVs in the South or investing in new factories to produce them.

In Tennessee, Volkswagen builds its all-electric ID.4 in Chattanooga, GM makes its Cadillac Lyriq EV in Spring Hill and the massive new BlueOval City outside Memphis will produce a new Ford EV pickup truck.

“The incentive packages were incredible that the automakers got to locate to the South,” Maynard said.

The South also has fewer unions, often because laws like “right to work” statutes make it hard to organize.

The lack of unions gave car companies more flexibility in who they could hire at their new Southern factories.

“There was no shortage of people that wanted to work in these car plants,” Maynard said. “That allowed the companies to essentially select the people that they thought would be most suited to automotive work and most open to the kind of flexibility the car companies wanted.”

The lack of unions, and the often weaker economies of Southern states, also meant that car companies could pay less for labor.

The established car manufacturers frequently partner with other companies to build batteries for their EVs, like Ford’s partnership with Korean company SK at BlueOval City or GM's joint venture in Spring Hill with LG Energy Solutions, also a Korean company. The partners bring expertise in manufacturing batteries. These joint ventures are often not required to use union labor. The UAW, however, has already announced plans to organize the new factories in Tennessee.

Will Tucker, the Southern program director for the workers advocacy group Jobs to Move America, sees newly arrived car manufacturers taking advantage of a culture in the region that historically has not supported the interests of workers.

When you look at who’s doing the investment, it’s typically non-union companies moving into states with legacies of worker exploitation, low pay and less than good jobs,” Tucker said.

Union leaders, like Shawn Fain of the UAW, see the rise in car production in states with less organized labor and hope to lock in better wages and benefits for their members. And they hope to grow their membership in these states.

The unions also view the transition to EVs as a threat, because electric cars are simpler and will likely require fewer workers to build.

“It’s not crystal clear how much less labor will be required. We know, for example, to produce an internal combustion engine requires the assembly of about 2,000 parts, while it requires the assembly of 20 parts for electric vehicles,” said Marick Masters, a professor at the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University in Detroit.

The recent investment in EV manufacturing plants has often been supported by public money, like the Inflation Reduction Act passed by the Biden administration.

“If states are giving money to the manufacturers, and the federal government is giving money to the manufacturers, then I think the workers have some bargaining power,” said Joshua T. White, a professor at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. “They’re saying, look, you need to share some of that profit.”

Car manufacturers have seen record profits in recent years, and CEOs have taken home huge pay packages. Those profits were driven by the rise in car prices due to COVID-era supply issues.

The car companies know profits will soon fall, as they invest in EVs. The legacy U.S. car manufacturers face stiff competition from newcomers like Tesla and the truck maker Rivian along with foreign companies.

“There’s no guarantee that Detroit will win this competition,” said Masters of Wayne State.

Technology advances and scaling up production will likely lower the cost of making EVs. But today companies find it hard to make a profit on electric cars and trucks.

“The only way you can preserve margins is raise prices or lower costs,” said White of Vanderbilt. “And I think they’re going to struggle to raise prices beyond what they’re charging now.”

If the UAW comes away from its current strike with a strong contract, it could help unions gain members in the South and at plants that are joint ventures with foreign companies.

“I think they would like to take it to the workers there and say, this is one reason why you should consider joining us. These are the wages you’ll get. These are the health and safety provisions you’ll get,” Masters said.

Even if unions do not gain new members in the South, winning a favorable contract could still benefit workers in the region.

“If you raise the standard for what a good job is through an action like this, that’s going to benefit Southern workers who can stand up and demand the same,” said Tucker of Jobs to Move America.

A big union win, others predict, might also drive more manufacturing to the Southern states like Tennessee where labor is cheaper and unlikely to be unionized.

“I’m sure the UAW wouldn’t want me to say this, but if they win what they’re asking for there are going to be fewer jobs up here,” Maynard said.

The UAW, says White of Vanderbilt, will almost certainly win higher wagers and better benefits from this strike. The unions gave car companies concessions after the 2008 financial crisis, and now the companies are making enormous profits. It will be hard for the manufacturers not to share those profits with workers.

But White believes the outcome of the strike will have little effect on the growth of car production in the South.

“That’s not going to stop no matter what the outcome is of this. The writing seems to be on the wall with EV battery production all taking place throughout the South,” he said.

Flight Sim Company Coming to Maury (Press Release)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter announced this week SGB Enterprises, Inc. will invest $1.7 million to relocate its headquarters and expand its design and manufacturing operations in Tennessee.

 Through the project, SGB will create 41 new jobs in Columbia.

 The move will position SGB in closer proximity to its primary customer base across the Southeast and will be a driving force in allowing SGB to expand its products and services for the commercial and military simulation training sectors. 

 Founded more than 30 years ago, SGB Enterprises, Inc. specializes in designing and manufacturing procedural training systems, flight simulators, maintenance trainers and other simulated avionics and control components for the aerospace industry. SGB will more than double its employment by expanding to Tennessee.

Since 2019, TNECD has supported nearly 15 economic development projects in Maury County, resulting in approximately 3,500 job commitments and $4.8 billion in capital investment.

 “Tennessee’s unmatched workforce and strong business climate continue to attract top-notch companies to our state. I thank SGB for its decision to relocate to Tennessee and look forward to the opportunities these 41 new jobs will create for Tennesseans across Maury County.” – Gov. Bill Lee

 “We are proud to partner with SGB as the company relocates its headquarters and expands its manufacturing in Tennessee. Our state is home to top research and development assets, which when combined with our strong background in manufacturing, will create the perfect climate to support companies like SGB in the aerospace industry.” – TNECD Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter

 “We are very excited about our expansion as Columbia is just a short drive up I-65 from our largest customer. The decision to relocate our headquarters in Tennessee is strategic and significant for our company and our core customers. Tennessee, Maury County and the City of Columbia offer a skilled and talented workforce, great resources for manufacturing and a supportive business environment that will allow us to continue to grow and to evolve our product and service offerings.”  – Joe Padula, president and CEO, SGB Enterprises 


Maury Regional Medicare Seminar (Press Release)

Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) will host the free Your Medicare in 2024 seminar on Friday, Nov. 3, from 2-3 p.m., featuring an explanation on Medicare plan changes for the coming year.

 The event will be held in the Maury Regional Annex at 1223 Trotwood Ave. in Columbia. To register, visit the Classes & Events page at MauryRegional.com or call 931.381.1111, extension 2445.

 Sherri Craig with the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) will provide information on what changes could be made in the Medicare Part D (prescription drug benefit) and Medicare Advantage (supplemental) plans in 2024. The seminar will also address the importance of performing an annual plan comparison and changes in Medicare costs.

 The Medicare open enrollment period is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. Medicare beneficiaries are encouraged to review your current coverage, ensure that your preferred providers are still in-network and determine what Part D plan will best cover your prescription medications. Plan changes go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

 The “Medicare and You” book that beneficiaries will receive by mail contains information about Medicare coverage and plans available in your area. For more information, visit MauryRegional.com/Medicare.

 SHIP volunteers at Maury Regional Medical Center are trained to offer assistance to Medicare recipients who would like their Medicare Part D options reviewed. To make an individual appointment, visit Volunteer.MauryRegional.com to obtain a form and return it to Volunteer Services. Forms are also available in the Volunteer Services Office at 1222 Trotwood Ave., Suite 112, in Columbia. Once the form is returned, individuals will be contacted to schedule an appointment for a one-on-one review.

 Maury Regional Health also has enrollment counselors available to answer questions. Schedule a meeting by calling 931.381.1111, ext. 7262. Appointments are available (including by phone or teleconference) during regular business hours.


CSCC Offers STEM Workshop for Kids (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College will host the STEM Within Reach event, an effort to promote and encourage young people’s knowledge and access to science, technology, engineering and math careers, on October 21 at the Columbia Campus.

“STEM Within Reach is a wonderful outreach event in our nine-county service region,” said Ryan Badeau, Columbia State educational services coordinator for the Williamson Campus and associate professor of physics. “This one-day program is a fast-paced and exciting showcase of STEM fields and career opportunities for sixth to eighth grade students who may not be aware of such trajectories. Columbia State is interested in attracting the next generation of scientists, engineers, computer programmers and doctors. The possibilities are endless when young minds are introduced to various STEM concepts and innovations.”

STEM Within Reach is a one-day STEM forum open to all 6th, 7th and 8th graders that will offer interactive, hands-on activities as well as encourage early student success in STEM, provide awareness of STEM careers available in Tennessee and promote the scientific and technological understanding of such fields.

The workshops at STEM Within Reach are designed to teach middle school students about the different opportunities in STEM-related careers as they begin to think about their futures. Stations will be set up around campus for the students to observe and participate while Columbia State faculty and guest presenters guide them through an interactive hands-on experience. Topics include animal science, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, math, technology and more.

“From anatomical dissections to nitrogen chambers, young participants will exist in a safe environment to think outside the box and perhaps step out of their comfort zone to experience new ideas and learn more about their interests and passions within the world of STEM,” said Andrew Wright, Columbia State assistant vice president of faculty, curriculum and programs. “Event participants will also meet and interact with external professionals from companies such as UltiumCells, General Motors, Landmark Ceramics, Boeing and more.”

Parents and teachers are also invited to stay and attend the adult session, which will provide insight on how to encourage and guide young students in STEM classes and careers. STEM Within Reach will demonstrate to parents how their children can have rewarding and high-paying careers in a variety of STEM fields.

The event will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m at the Waymon L. Hickman building on the Columbia Campus. There is a $40 registration fee, with limited financial assistance opportunities available via the scholarship application made possible thanks to lead sponsor, the Tennessee Valley Authority. Seating is limited.

For more information or to register, visit www.ColumbiaState.edu/STEM-Within-Reach.


Duck River Symposium (MSM)

During the month of October, the Maury County Public Library will host a symposium on different aspects of the Duck River.

The Duck River’s 284 miles flow through seven Middle Tennessee counties and it is the longest river in the United States that is contained entirely in one state. National Geographic has stated that the Duck River is one of the most biodiverse rivers in the world. Fifty species of freshwater mussels and 151 different fish species make the Duck River their home.

On Oct. 17 at 6 p.m., Doug Murphy, Executive Director of Duck River Agency, and Jonathan Hardin, interim president and CEO of Columbia Power & Water Systems, will discuss water conservation as it relates to Maury and neighboring counties.

Amanda Rosenberger, PhD, will be speaking about the variety of freshwater life in the Duck River at 6 p.m. on Oct. 24.

There will also be a display featuring different aspects of the river. TWRA has made fishing equipment sets available to those 16 and under. A door prize of a float trip on the Duck will be drawn at each program.


Whole Hog Festival (Press Release)

JOIN The Well Outreach THIS SATURDAY OCT. 7th FROM 10 AM - 5 PM for their Whole Hog Festival!

This is Spring Hill’s largest community festival!

 

It’s a great day and fun for all ages, plus all proceeds go to support The Well Outreach Food Pantry, feeding local families in need. Have fun and help your community all at the same time

 

There’s something for everyone including a HUGE Kid’s Zone with all FREE activities, an antique Tractor Show, a Regional Crafts Fair, a Petting Zoo, a Children’s Circus, great LIVE MUSIC all day-long plus lots of yummy Pork-Themed Food! 

 

Tickets are $5/person with children 5 and under FREE and are available at the door. Please join The Well Outreach from 10 am - 5 pm on Saturday, October 7th at Oaklawn Mansion

(3331 Denning Lane, Spring Hill TN)

for a great, family-friendly day!


Farmland Legacy Workshop (Press Release)

The South-Central Extension Team will be conducting a Farmland Legacy Workshop. The two-night workshop will be held October 17th and October 19th from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at the Southern Tennessee Higher Education Center Columbia State Community College 169 Southern Tennessee Lane Lawrenceburg, TN.

Farmland Legacy workshops are designed primarily to assist farm families with estate planning, to provide for an orderly succession of farm properties, and maintain family farms for future generations. However, the classes are open to anyone interested in estate planning. Qualified experts including estate planning attorneys, Extension Specialists, and other professionals will conduct the workshop.

The cost for the program is $25 per person or $40 per couple and meals will be provided both nights. Participants will also receive a workbook and publications to help them get started in estate planning.

For more information and to register, contact the UT Extension office at (931) 762-5506 or visit tiny.utk.edu/FarmlandLegacyWorkshop.


And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…  


Alvin Moore, 94, passed away on September 29, 2023, at his home in Columbia, Tennessee, surrounded by his family. Mr. Moore was a long-time employee of Tennessee Farm Bureau

A memorial service will be conducted Saturday, October 21, 2023, at 2:00 P.M. at First United Methodist Church with Reverend Tommy Vann and Reverend Frank Smith officiating. The family will visit with friends Saturday from 12:00 P.M. until service time at the church. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.


…And now, news from around the state…

Heightened Security at Legislature (TNLookout)

State officials won’t divulge the number of troopers who worked security – or the cost – at the August special session, but that type of force could be seen frequently during regular sessions too.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton said recently he didn’t know how much the state spent to bring in dozens of troopers, if not more than 100, to the Capitol and Cordell Hull Building for a week and a half in August. 

But he said more troopers could be hired full time if disruptions continue during the Legislature’s regular sessions.

Sexton claimed both House Republicans and Democrats said they didn’t feel safe at the end of the regular session in March and April and wanted more security. Anti-gun protests in the wake of the Covenant School mass shooting brought out hundreds of local students and parents who filled the Capitol and shouted at lawmakers to pass weapons restrictions.

Sexton said the Legislature worked with the Department of Safety and Homeland Security to set up a new plan in advance of the special session.

It included limited access to the Cordell Hull tunnel, which links to the Capitol, and required Capitol visitors to go through the building’s front door where they were met with increased trooper presence.

State troopers lined the hallways of the Capitol and filled the Cordell Hull building throughout the special session. 

“I think you could actually see us hire and put more security there full time if this is the road we’re going to continue to go down,” Sexton said. “But the number one job is to make sure the people who are visiting feel safe, make sure the members feel safe, and the number that we had there was accomplishing that goal.”


UT Campus Enrollment Up (Press Release)

The University of Tennessee System saw all-time record enrollment this fall with 58,726 students enrolled in the system’s five campuses, representing a 4.8 percent increase from last fall.

UT campuses across the state experienced gains, with the flagship UT Knoxville recording a 6.8 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment from 2022. 


"While national enrollment trends may show a decline, setting a new record for enrollment across our UT System campuses is a testament to the outstanding work of our faculty and staff who work incredibly hard to provide an accessible, high-quality education,” UT System President Randy Boyd said.  “Growth in retention is one key factor in our record enrollment numbers. These trends also reflect the dedication and determination of our students, who are seizing the opportunities our UT campuses offer to shape their futures. Our students recognize the value of a UT education while our campuses continue to adapt and innovate to meet their needs.”

Since the fall of 2019, the UT System has experienced steady growth in enrollment, graduation rates and increases in the number of degrees awarded.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

There were no lucky big winners once again for the Powerball jackpot drawing on Wednesday night.

The jackpot continues to climb after nobody matched all six numbers in Wednesday night's drawing. It now sits at an estimated $1.40 billion with a cash option of $643.7 million.

This Powerball jackpot has now climbed to the third-highest jackpot in the game's history and ranks among the top 10 payouts in lottery history. This is also now the fourth lottery jackpot to hit more than $1 billion in 2023.

The last Powerball jackpot winner was in July and hit for $1.08 billion.

The next drawing for the Powerball jackpot is Saturday, Oct. 7 at 9:59p.m. local time.


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