‘It’s a company that’s going to change the future of Campbell County’- Jay Willoughby

TOP PHOTO: “We’re extremely proud and happy to have them here,” said JECDB Chairman Jay Willoughby.

By Charlotte Underwood 

LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – United Rare Earths CEO Jeffrey Willis and Company Principal Dr. Bob Wright attended the Joint Economic Community Development Board (JECDB) meeting on Thursday evening, giving an update on their company locating in Caryville.

The groundbreaking ceremony for United Rare Earths took place in Caryville at the Collins Industrial Park in December.  The event marked the beginning of a huge investment for the community that will result in “high paying jobs” for Campbell County, while “reinforcing the nation’s economic independence and increasing national security,” according to United Rare Earths officials.

“We’re extremely proud and happy to have them here. They are bringing a company to our area that is going to change the future of Campbell County,” said JECDB Chairman Jay Willoughby.

Willis addressed the board and spoke briefly about the project.

Mark Cain, CEO of Tennova – La Follette Medical Center.

“We launched a strategy three years ago that we knew was going to be important to our nation, but we didn’t know it was going to be in Caryville,” Willis said. 

Through a partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratories and help from Congressman Chuck Fleischmann, who played an important role as chairman of House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, United Rare Earths decided “Tennessee was the best place to be.”

“We were welcomed to the point that we feel at home here in Caryville,” Jeffrey Willis said. 

United Rare Earths is an “energy company in pursuit of clean and sustainable energy,” according to Willis. 

“We’re in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratories. We have a partnership with the Department of Energy, and the census track site led us to the industrial park in Caryville,” Willis said.

United Rare Earths project plan will have three phases, according to the owners. The first phase will be recycling, the second phase will be refining, and the third phase will be research into sustainable energy.

The first phase includes a 50,000 square foot recycling facility and will bring around 187 jobs.  According to Willis, these are going to be good paying jobs with an average salary of around $60,000 annually.

The recycling facility will recycle “spent” magnets. United Rare Earths is also exploring refining rare earths from industrial waste such as coal.

The biggest source of magnets for recycling will come from electric cars, but they will also recycle spent magnets from the defense industry as another source.

Rhonda Longmire, market president for Community Trust Bank.

“Our defense relies on this new technology…new vehicles can’t run without permanent magnets, and if we are relying on China for this transition, we are going to have a problem,” Willis said. He said China controls 93 percent of the mines themselves that have rare earth molecules. These rare earths are integral for the future transition to electric vehicles, sustainable energy and more.

“They don’t intend to make it an easy transition, because they can disrupt nations and supply chains. We thought we need to be more purposeful; we need to serve the nation with a solution that we can be a small part of,” Willis said.

He told JECDB members that the company coming into Caryville was going to have a “reverberating impact”, not just in Tennessee, but in the whole nation. 

“We feel very at home here,” Willis said.

United Rare Earths Principal Dr. Wright spoke briefly, saying he appreciated the opportunity to be at the JECDB meeting and the opportunity to locate their company in Caryville.

“Thank you for welcoming us so joyfully and warmly,” Dr. Wright said.

“It’s very rare for a company to put together a consortium such as this. It involves the private sector, the academic world with UT, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, the research sector. A lot of players coming to the table to make this happen.  It’s just a great opportunity,” Willoughby said.

“We are going to be an important company with a national solution. We believe as this continues to grow and evolve, we think this is going to have a significant impact,” Willis said. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 02/09/2024-6AM-PHOTOS COURTESY OF WLAF’S CHARLIE HUTSON)

One Reply to “JECDB gets update on United Rare Earths business”

  1. Welcome to our town! You all will do well! Thank you for the opportunities! God bless 🙏!

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