TOP PHOTO: This handshake between Jeffrey Willis (left) with United Rare Earths and Caryville Mayor Bobby Stooksbury (right) signals the beginning to a much anticipated business relationship. Caryville Alderman Josh Monday (center) is the linchpin for Caryville and Rare Earths.

Cold winter sunshine and a chilly breeze made for an invigorating atmosphere.

By Charlotte Underwood 

CARYVILLE, TN (WLAF) – “It’s a great day for Caryville, and a great day for the county, the state and the nation,” – Caryville Mayor Bobby Stooksbury said of the new 50,000 square foot business that will soon be building at Collins Industrial Park. 

WLAF’s Charlie Hutson shares his full photo gallery HERE.

A ground breaking ceremony for United Rare Earths took place in Caryville at the Collins Industrial Park Wednesday morning. 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. 

Rare Earths are a group of 15 elements in the periodic table that are found in the earth. They are used in electric vehicle production, renewable energy systems and technology, battery making and more. Currently China is responsible for 90 percent of Rare Earths production and supply, and the United States is seeking to break China’s domination of the rare earths market. 

Dr. Robert Wright, Jeffrey Willis and John Graves (left to right) are the United Rare Earths partners.

United Rare Earths is a “U.S. owned and operated company developing a premier Rare Earths Hub” in Caryville. “Operations will include a Magnet Recycling Center, a Refinery, and a Technology Center of Excellence.”

The company purchased 38.96 acres from Caryville at $19,000 an acre.

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, this will be at a later date, and finally the third phase will be research. United Rare Earths will start with 80 employees.

Wednesday’s groundbreaking was for United Rare Earths’ magnet recycling and separation facility.

According to United Rare Earths officials, this facility will be 50,000 square feet and will cost around $30 million dollars. 

“This is wonderful for our county. It means a giant investment by the company, it means great paying jobs for Campbell County and Caryville,” Caryville Mayor Bobby Stooksbury said. 

Caryville Alderwoman Vickie Heatherly said it was “one of the greatest happenings for Caryville in a long time.”

“It’s a great asset for the county and a great fit for our industrial park. United Rare Earths is going to be a game changer for Caryville,” Heatherly said.

Caryville Alderman Josh Monday served as master of ceremonies and spoke first at Wednesday’s groundbreaking, thanking everyone for all their efforts in bringing the project to fruition. 

“This company will have a significant impact for the United States independence in rare earths production,” Monday said.

Congressman Chuck Fleischmann was on site at the ground breaking and played an important role as chairman of House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee.

According to Fleischmann, United Rare Earths business owners approached him two years ago with their vision, and he was able to “help them through language in the energy and water appropriations bill.”

A crowd of upwards of 100 attended.

“Today is an outstanding day for Tennessee. When I helped them I didnt know they were going to choose the great state of Tennessee, but your local leaders, our state leaders and coordinators have done such a fantastic job that we attract key businesses in Tennessee,” Fleischmann said.

He spoke on how “perfect” it was that United Rare Earths had been able to partner with Oak Ridge National Laboratory on this project. 

During Wednesday’s big announcement at the Erschell Collins Industral Park, Caryville, Mayor Bobby Stooksbury thanked the town’s Street, Fire and Police Departments for handling the day’s logisitcs. 

Department for the work work they did behind the scene to make sure todays event went smooth.

“I can’t state how important Oak Ridge National Laboratory is and we were able to get these gentlemen together with Oak Ridge. We have an opportunity here in Caryville, Tennessee, to regain America’s dominance in rare earth minerals. At a time when our country is bitterly divided, I see a group like this coming together and that gives us a glimmer of hope for the present and the future,” Fleischmann said.

State Rep. Dennis Powers thanked United Rare Earths for choosing Tennessee and especially Caryville. 

“We want to make sure that you are successful because we love our state and we love our country. This company will be doing things to make our country safer with rare earth materials,” Powers said.

County Mayor Jack Lynch said he was excited for the jobs coming into Campbell County as a result of the new business. 

“This is the future to me. This is going to give people jobs, a new direction and hope for the nation. The mayor’s office is always supportive of new businesses, and we will help any way we can,” Lynch said.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Associate Laboratory Director for Physical Sciences Dr. Cynthia Jenks was at the ground breaking ceremony as well and said she and ORNL looked forward to working with United Rare Earths. 

“What an amazing entrepreneurial spirit they bring. We at Oak Ridge are privileged to work with their team and with the city to ensure our country has the rare earth materials that it needs for our security as a nation,” Dr. Jenks said.

Jeffrey Willis, one of the owners of United Rare Earths, spoke on behalf of the company on Wednesday. 

“This is a very special day for us and our team. We often seize upon great opportunities by being visionaries,” Willis said. He described how he and his business partners were seeing a “new paradigm” where the nation was shifting towards “cleaner energy and new power sources.”

“We saw there was a shortage of key tools, rare earth elements are in short supply in this nation, but not in our wildest dreams did we think we would be able to have this impact on our nation for the better. Our mission is to create a secure, reliable, domestic supply of rare earth elements,” Willis said.

According to United Rare Earths officials, this first of three facilities will be 50,000 square feet and will cost around $30 million dollars. 

He thanked everyone for their part in getting the project this far and also thanked the investors. Willis extended a special thanks to Congressman Fleischmann for his help. 

“He embraced it from day one and recognized our vision to disrupt our reliance on any offshore market, particularly China. We are proud to launch this project in the third district of the great state of Tennessee,” Willis said. 

Willis said it would create “direct and indirect jobs, with an emphasis on local hiring.

These will be jobs of all levels including scientists, engineers, skilled trade workers and more. 

“This is going to be a whole new generation of job opportunities…We’re going to utilize local trade schools and work with the Tennessee College of Applied Technology and with Roane State Community College, and we’re going to do all we can to include local businesses,” Willis said.

He thanked the community of Caryville and gave them the assurance that the business’s “presence would be seamless.”

“We will be worthy stewards of your resources,” Willis said. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 12/21/2023-6AM)