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Opinion
Andre Perry and Tonantzin Carmona

Ford Needs to Take a Stand in Tennessee

The company’s Blue Oval City investment could transform a struggling, Black-majority rural town — if state officials don’t get in the way.

Make America proud.

Make America proud.

Photographer: Jon Cherry/Bloomberg

When Ford Motor Company announced plans to build a 4,100-acre electric truck and battery plant outside Mason, Tennessee, it created a rare opportunity to uplift a struggling, Black-majority rural town. Now, as state officials seek to step in and grab the benefits, Mason’s leaders urgently need Ford’s help to keep that hope alive.

A town of fewer than 1,400 residents, 60% of whom are Black, Mason faces ample economic challenges. Decades of disinvestment and mismanagement by White-controlled governments — including one official indicted for stealing more than $600,000 — resulted in poor services, high property taxes and daunting debts. The town’s first predominantly Black administration, elected in 2016, has worked to correct the failings of its predecessors, reducing the debts by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Still, jobs remain scarce: One major employer, a private prison, recently closed.