Andy Ogles Urges Legislators to Proceed with Caution and Read the Fine Print of Ford Mega Site Deal


Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Mayor Andy Ogles in studio to discuss the implications of a Ford mega site gone wrong.

Leahy: In studio with us, our very good friend, the Mayor of Maury County Andy Ogles. Maury County, that bastion of freedom and turbocharged engine of economic growth. Love that phrase.

Ogles: Oh, absolutely.

Leahy: When you look at this Ford deal and you go back in time when you look at the General Motors relationship to Middle Tennessee, and obviously, they landed in Maury County. But it was transformative to Middle Tennessee.

Leahy: All of Middle Tennessee. Williamson County, a lot of people who work a lot of Michiganders came down. That did transform it.

You can go anywhere in Williamson County and you can go to any service area, get your hair cut, any retailer, somebody there is working who’s originally from Michigan.

Ogles: When you look at what this could do for West Tennessee and Haywood County’s, West of Jackson. It’s one of your more rural areas of the state. Portions of it are economically depressed. So the stakes are high.

And the mayors out there, the county mayors have been lobbying really hard, really, for the last three years to keep the mega site current and active and keep it marketed so that they could land that big fish.

Leahy: The mega site out there was a bust for about 20 years. How long was that out there and nobody was buying?

Ogles: It began under Bredeson and was continued under Haslam. And then obviously, now we’re into the Lee administration.

But the caution to something this big, and when you’re putting when you land a well, you better make sure your moorings are tight.

And are those clawback provisions not only for the state but also for the county, are more critically important. And that’s coming from a County Maury County, myself, as County Mayor that has that experience that institutional knowledge.

Leahy: 30 years.

Ogles: That’s right. Where we had that relationship. We were promised 5,000 jobs. The (Inaudible talk) went away. So then we were left with a pilot and a negotiation that predated myself and my predecessor and even his predecessor. So that’s the caution here. And obviously a billion dollars is a staggering amount of money.

Leahy: It sure is.

Ogles: $833 million, $850 million, $900 million, or whatever it ends up being. Ultimately, that is a lot of money, and it requires it is so much money that it requires a special session.

Leahy: Let’s talk about that. See if you can unravel this mystery for me. As I understand it, the Economic Development Administration has appropriated a certain amount of money every year or every session that they can use at their discretion to attract manufacturers.

And so you were talking about the LG Chem incentives that the state provided to bring a battery plant in Maury County. You don’t know how much money they gave them, right?

Ogles: So there’s a whole number of ways that a company can be given dollars, whether that’s grants through TVA, direct monies from the state through cash, or they’re getting a discount on property taxes or any number of things. Use taxes. But those monies are oftentimes one smaller in number and already in the budget.

Leahy: Already appropriated.

Ogles: That’s right. So, for example, let’s say Facebook, and I just use this as a hypothetical. You may have the Commissioner or ECD or the governor as the directive who wants to recruit a technology company.

So they set aside $100 million for a technology company. And so that money is there. It’s appropriate in their budget. It would be generically earmarked for that.

And then once it’s been earmarked, then they have the latitude to spend it. And there’s no requirement for public discussion.

Leahy: But they needed this special session because that appropriated money apparently is not gone or is either gone or it’s not enough to cover the full $884 million.

Ogles: I think there’s a lot to this deal that’s requiring a special session, but one of those is just the size of the investment on behalf of the state.

Leahy: That’s a big deal. So this is more spending that wasn’t in the budget that now is coming into the budget. And so the questions are, is this a good use of taxpayer money?

The freight train of politics is saying it’s going to happen. I’m skeptical as to whether 20 years from today will prove to have been a good investment this way.

Ogles: Again, the details will be determined on those clawbacks.

(Commercial break)

Leahy: Andy, I’m trying to divine the tea leaves and read the alchemy of the purported second special session of the Tennessee General Assembly. A little curveball was thrown in Monday morning, I guess, by the governor on the current special session.

There are two bills under consideration, all directly related to the $900 million extra appropriations, apparently to induce Ford to build an electric pickup truck plant in West Tennessee at the mega site.

The third bill was some bill that state Representative Chris Todd told us had to do with unemployment as it relates to COVID. Somehow they tied it into the Ford special session. I thought that was a little bit odd to see that thrown in there. (Ogles chuckles) 

Ogles: Again, the Devils in the details and look for those that are watching this process and are a little confused by it, incentives for corporations are normal, whether you like it or not.

Leahy: By the way, I’m just going to put my hand up and say, yes, it is normal. I don’t like it.

Ogles: Sometimes the incentives are small and it has more to do with the locality, and they get a discount on their part of their property taxes, whether it’s their personal property, which would be their equipment, or real property, which is the real estate.

But Amazon, even though they’re a billion-dollar, multi-billion trillion-dollar company, whatever they are now when they opened their AWS in Tennessee, they would have gotten some sort of incentive.

Facebook received an incentive. General Motors and the Mersen plant. The question is it’s kind of like if you’re putting a roof on your house when you look at the cost of putting the roof or putting in new windows, there’s a point of diminishing return where what you’re doing no longer adds value.

And so that’s a tough equation sometimes to figure out when you’re incentivizing corporations. I think in this case with Ford, the important part of this is protecting the locality and the state over the next 10 years is what are those clawback provisions?

And if this brand ultimately goes defunct in the same way Saturn did does Haywood County get stuck with a pilot that’s based on 8,000 jobs or 5,000 jobs? But yet they only end up with 1,200. And that has happened.

Leahy: Historically that’s happened.

Ogles: Because I’m in a Tennessee County that it happened to. So that’s my caution to those in the General Assembly that are listening listen to a county that’s been in this situation.

Maury County is still rural, and we were certainly rural back in 1986 when this all began and we got stuck with the bill. So proceed with caution. I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m saying proceed with caution.

Leahy: And we use the term freight train steamroller. This thing is moving through. All of those questions which should be answered really in detail, I doubt will be answered.

Ogles: And that’s my fear is that in haste that some of the details are missed. You got a lot of smart people up there. That being said, sometimes mistakes are made in the moment of expediency. But anyway, we started this about the second special session.

Leahy: I want to talk about that. This is good. So the way a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly is called, there are two ways. The governor can call it, but you can only address the purpose that the governor states it’s for.

So it’s basically the Ford deal asterisk. If two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of members of the state Senate write a letter to the governor and say we’re going to have a special session on these additional topics.

Then the governor must call that special session. There has been a need for this. We’ll talk about the need first, and then we’ll talk about the dance because we have not yet received a commitment from two-thirds in the state Senate that they’re going to hold a special session yesterday.

Gary Humble of Tennessee Stands our friend put together a list of priorities, and it’s very good. I’ll go through this list. It’s at the of about half a dozen things that a special session should address.

Number one, vaccine mandates by employers must come to an end. Number two, remove extraordinary and broad powers given to county health officers. Number three, no mask mandates in our public schools.

Number four, right to access lifesaving medication and treatment. Number five, this is a big one. Time to end the emergency. We’ve been an emergency for a year and a half now. I think it’s time to end it.

I agree with that. And a right to petition for a recall election of school board members. That’s six. I agree with every single one of those. I think there’s a big need for that in a special session. Your thoughts?

Ogles: If you recall, back at the end of August September, I issued a proclamation really calling for all of those with the exception of the school board. But it gets back to this and let me back up just a moment.

I think why there’s a lot of angst about this special session with Ford is not that folks are against Ford or the deal for West Tennessee, because truly if it comes to fruition it will be transformative much in the way Middle Tennessee growth is based on General Motors coming here all those years ago, is that the people of Tennessee have been begging for relief from oppressive COVID edicts for months and months. And it’s falling on deaf ears.

Leahy: That’s very frustrating. And, of course, it’s interesting. The governor issued this executive order on August 16th, which had all sorts of legal issues that have been exposed in unusual ways. But the point is, school boards in three counties have said, let’s go ahead.

Ogles: (Phone rings) Somebody is calling. It must be the governor.

Leahy: Sorry about that, folks. That’s the governor who wants to come in and talk to us.

Ogles: And he’s welcome.

Leahy: And his August 16 executive order where he said, well, school boards, if they want to do mask mandates, they can’t. I think he can’t do that. But he did it. And then parents can opt-out if they want to.

Again, I don’t think he had the authority to do that either, but he did it. And the challenge was made in federal court. You know who’s behind that challenge? It’s a group funded by Mark Elias.

Mark Elias has got a whole pile of money, and they all made the same argument. This is the same guy who drove the election integrity or the election violation rules shall we say that the Democrats got away with.

What I think is interesting on all this is the federal courts in three counties have this lawsuit brought by parents who said you’re violating the Americans for Disability Act by not forcing masks.

Now, that’s a crazy argument. But three judges bought it. And so now three counties, they’re stuck. Federal judges are telling them you got to wear masks. Parents hate that. Most parents do.

Ogles: For example, on the mask issue, if the General Assembly would have convened, quite frankly, if they would have done their job and convened and addressed this and addressed some of the particulars, including ADA, that it would have had more standing in court versus an executive order.

Leahy: An executive order with questionable legal authority is not going to have the same standing in court as a statute passed by the Tennessee General Assembly and signed into law by the governor.

And by the way, let’s just go back to the science of this. We’ve written, and by the way, we’re going to offer a report available to anybody who wants to sign up at

We’ll make this report available. Primarily it’s James Agresti who did a 20 page summary of all the science around masks. And it’s overwhelming. Masks do not prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

Ogles: Well, and this is anecdotal information. But if you look at yesterday’s data off the University of Tennessee’s site for COVID in the state of Tennessee. The map is color-coded. It’s green, yellow, orange, red, red is bad. Green is good.

You want your spread rate for each county to be below one. If the spread rate is below one, then the virus is diminishing. Maury County is 14th in population. On most of your metrics, you’re going to expect to see Maury County to be 13, 14,15.

It’s a virus. It’s going to be largely based on population and density. Off of new cases, Maury County ranks 22nd in active cases. We rank 18th now. That was yesterday’s date. It could change today, but the point is we’re outperforming our peers in the other 94 counties.

We’ve never had a mask mandate. We’ve never shut down. We’ve had our community events. We’ve had the county fair. We’ve had concerts in the park. And we encourage people to social distance and use common sense.

And so we’ve never done these economic hurdles for our local businesses. We’ve continued to flourish. And yet we’ve performed at the same rate or better than most counties in the state of Tennessee.

Leahy: That’s called evidence. It’s called a clue folks.

Ogles: Again, it’s anecdotal information. But you start looking at spread rates and case counts. And where Williamson County versus Blount County versus Maury versus a rural county like Haywood, it’s based on population and size and density.

You’re going to expect Shelby County, which is the largest county in the state that has a much more dense population, that has a higher proportion of poverty and lower access to health care, is going to have different metrics than Williamson County, which is much smaller and has higher average incomes, et cetera. Most of this is common sense.

Leahy: (Chuckles) Common sense, a quality lacking in many public officials here. But not lacking with the Mayor, Maury County Andy Ogles.

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.















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