Automotive manufacturing accounts for more than one-third of advanced industry employment in Tennessee, serving as an anchor for a nascent ecosystem of research and innovation and employing a highly skilled and educated workforce. In the past 24- months alone, 151 manufacturers have announced expansions or new locations in the DRIVE region. The region is now home to six major automotive manufacturers and 582 manufacturers in the automotive supply chain, employing more than 90,000 people.
The Drive for the Future Consortium’s (DRIVE) initiative will accelerate the development of a strong and growing automotive cluster in the Tennessee Valley, already the fifth largest region in the country for automotive industry employment. To catapult the competitiveness of its industry to the next level, DRIVE will invest in the region’s public and private research and innovation assets, rapidly accelerating the region’s growth while reaching new heights of global automotive leadership. The DRIVE strategy will integrate the region’s research and innovation resources with both training institutions and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region to ensure that the region remains globally competitive and continues to emerge as a leading center for advanced automotive technologies.
Workforce and Training: The DRIVE region has launched a plethora of industry relevant education and training partnerships to meet the increasing skills requirements and education demands of automotive industry jobs. A key goal for the region and for these partnerships will be to increase the percentage of adults with at least an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, with a special focus on increasing the number of STEM degrees. To contribute to the region’s training infrastructure, companies, including Volkswagen, Bridgestone, and Nissan are investing in state of the art training centers. And businesses are partnering to inspire the next generation of manufacturers through the region’s Dream It Do It campaign.
Supplier Networks: The DRIVE consortium will provide resources and technical assistance to expand the role of automotive associations as advocates, conveners, and connectors across the automotive supply chain. Already, four regional industry associations are working together with the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) to build greater regional connections between supplier networks and research and innovation institutions.
Research and Innovation: The DRIVE region contains leading national research and innovation assets including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and its Manufacturing Demonstration and Carbon Fiber Technology Facilities. The DRIVE Consortium will better connect these valuable research assets with small and medium employers and new startups by expanding proven research, financial, and technical assistance programs such as an industry-voucher program, REVV!, for local manufacturers to tap R&D capabilities at ORNL and UT and Launch TN, a public-private partnership focused on technology commercialization.
Infrastructure and Site Development: The DRIVE region has an extensive inventory of industrial properties, many of which are pre-cleared for manufacturing development – including 784 industrial buildings, 415 greenfield sites, and 109 brownfield sites. However, even with these sites available, small manufacturers may need additional guidance on locating and developing sites. The DRIVE region will expand technical assistance and capital for SME plant transformation, layout and processing implementation, and access to funding for advanced manufacturing infrastructure and site development.
Trade and International Investment: The DRIVE region will expand export programs and increase the use of export tools throughout the supply chain, particularly focusing on firms with a strong record of innovation and product development. In addition, it will provide training and information to economic development and community leaders on the importance of foreign-direct investment (FDI) and exports to the automotive sector, the connection between FDI and exports, potential impacts on research and innovation, and significance to economic growth.
Operational Improvements and Capital Access: The DRIVE region will increase SME access to operational improvements and capital to ensure firms across the supplier network can capitalize on the region’s research and innovation assets. This includes increasing the advanced manufacturing and automotive capabilities of participating MEPs; increasing regional collaboration of MEPs across state lines to provide advanced manufacturing services; expanding energy, environmental, and economic efficiency programs; and expanding programs and mechanisms that make capital more accessible to small firms for operational improvements.
Leadership and Administration: University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service
Research and Innovation: ORNL, University of Tennessee Campuses and Institutes
Supplier Network: UT-CIS, TAMA
Operational Improvement and Capital Access: UT-CIS, Pathway Lending
Workforce and Training: Tennessee Board of Regents
Infrastructure and Site Development: TN ECD
Trade and Investment: TN ECD, UT-CIS