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‘Part of the DNA will be DEI at BlueOval City’

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are front and center of hiring at BlueOval City, Ford Motor Company prepares to open its s new mega plant in Stanton, Tennessee, in 2025.

“Around the BlueOval City project, our goal is to have the workforce be reflective of the community where we’re located,” said Alison Nelson, Ford’s director of DEI Strategies and Program Planning.

Following Ford’s historic 2021 announcement, West Tennessee job seekers can now pursue nearly 6,000 unfolding new jobs while entrepreneurs seek new business opportunities.

BlueOval City will produce Ford’s next-generation electric trucks and EV batteries.

Both urban and rural citizens will benefit from on-site training, manufacturing positions, leadership roles and new contracts, giving relief to the region’s struggling families.

Early leadership hiring and contracting to build the 3,600-acre, high-tech plant has begun – Ford will annouce a major kick-off event at BlueOval in early 2023.

Among managerial roles, two West Tennessee-based human resource officers have been secured to lead hiring – one for BlueOval assembly plant’s 3,200 jobs and one for BlueOval SK battery plant’s 2,500 jobs. SK On is Ford’s EV battery production partner.

In October, Ursula Madden, former City of Memphis chief communications officer, was named BlueOval external affairs manager. Madden will launch communications projects and act as a liaison between the plant and stakeholders.

Ford reported in August that at least half of BlueOval supplier contracts are held by MWBEs (Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises) and veteran-owned businesses.

Nelson said Ford is committed to diverse business practices, as well as hiring from diverse backgrounds, including different genders, races and educational ranks.

“We’ve already done and will continue to do outreach into many of the local communities – from working with Black business leaders to meeting with clergy – and we’ve met with veterans’ groups,” she said.

“We’re leaning into all of those demographics because it’s really important to us to have that representation across the board to reflect the community.

“Ongoing, whether it’s at BlueOval City or Ford Motor Company, our goal is to make sure DEI is embedded into all our people practices and policies.

“The beauty of BlueOval City is, it’s fresh and new so we’re embedding all of that from the onset.”

Alison Nelson, Ford’s Director of DEI Strategies and Program Planning, moderated a panel discussion on the Ford automotive plant at the Jackson Fairgrounds in October. (Courtesy photo)

Nelson, whose family originates from West Tennessee, is a senior Ford lawyer and strategic partner based at Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

In 2021, she took on the DEI role to embed DEI strategies across Ford enterprises.

As of 2022, all global Ford salaried employees have DEI objectives, said Nelson.

Meeting DEI goals is now part of their job evaluations – an effort supported by Ford CEO Jim Farley.

For 40 years, Ford has offered and continues to provide workforce support and resources through Ford Employee Resource Groups.

Ford ERGs include Women of Ford, Ford African Ancestry Network, Ford Hispanic and Latino Network, and active disability, veterans and LGBTQ networks.

These networks also encourage the exchange of ideas and create safe spaces for open (and sometimes difficult) dialogue.

Nelson said BlueOval’s newness presents a “clean slate” for integrating DEI at inception versus weaving these strategies into an existing business framework.

“Part of the DNA will be ‘DEI’ at BlueOval City,” she said.

Nelson continued, “We have CEO Jim Farley and I’ve personally heard Jim speak of his commitment and I’ve seen him make it very clear about his expectations around DEI and the progress that we need to be making.

“So, I know it’s personal for him in that he’s holding himself and his team accountable. Having a leader who is committed (to DEI) is really key.”

BlueOval is meeting with school districts, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), municipal leaders, nonprofits and private companies throughout West Tennessee to define jobs to come and the training needed.

Discussions on STEM education paths (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to prepare school youth for future BlueOval jobs are in progress and regional leaders are examining public transit options between Memphis and Stanton.

Ford is investing $5.6 billion in BlueOval City, which, when completed, will be the nation’s largest electric truck and EV battery campus.

In November, Ford Motor Company Fund, the automaker’s philanthropic arm, invested $1 million in capital grants to help West Tennessee nonprofits, municipalities and small businesses improve community-based construction projects as BlueOval evolves.

Awards range from $25,000 to $100,000 and will be distributed in April 2023.

Tax-exempt agencies should apply at https://fordfund.org/TNcapitalgrants. Interested nontax-exempt agencies must email United Way of West Tennessee at [email protected] and enter “Ford Fund Capital Grant” in the subject line.

The deadline to apply is February 3, 2023.

For BlueOval updates and job announcements as they develop, visit: blueovaljobs.com, Ford.com/blueovalcity or www.facebook.com/BlueOvalCity/.

For more information on Ford DEI strategies, visit https://corporate.ford.com/careers/inclusive-hiring/diversity.html.

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