Northern Michigan Battery Plant Marks ‘Largest Single Business Investment’ in Mecosta County

A Michigan Senate committee gave final legislative approval on Thursday to allocate $175 million in state funds to a factory planned in northern Michigan. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

By Kyle Kaminski

April 21, 2023

A soon-to-be-built $2.4 billion manufacturing plant for electric vehicle batteries is poised to create 2,350 new jobs—with above-average salaries—and help secure Michigan’s place in the automotive supply chain.

LANSING—A Democratic-led Michigan Senate committee gave its final legislative approval on Thursday to allocate $175 million in state funds to Gotion, a factory in northern Michigan that state and local leaders say will create thousands of jobs, and be a boon for the local economy.

The funds were approved in a narrow 10-9 vote by the Senate Appropriations committee following months of unfounded fears that the project could be a front for a Chinese Communist Party plot—namely because its parent company, Gotion High-tech, is based in China.

Company executives have repeatedly rebuked the conspiracy as a baseless “communist scare.”

The $2.4 billion Gotion project, which is planned on a large site in Mecosta County’s Big Rapids, will create 2,350 jobs with average wages of $29.42 per hour, according to the company’s proposal. Lawmakers also approved about $540 million in tax incentives for the project last year.

Both local and state officials have stood in support of the facility, which will be used to produce cathodes and anodes—two components that are key to electric vehicle battery manufacturing.

In a statement following the committee’s approval, Green Township Supervisor Jim Chapman said the Gotion plant will be the “largest single business investment in Mecosta County history.”

“Today, we take another monumental step forward on our journey to bring thousands of good-paying jobs to the Big Rapids area,” Chapman said. “This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

will make a substantial positive impact for our residents and small businesses for decades.”

He added: “Our restaurants will have more diners. Our grocery stores will have more shoppers. Our local businesses will have more customers. Our families will have more good-paying jobs.”

READ MORE: More Big-Name Companies Plant Roots in Michigan

The recent Republican-led pushback against the California-based company’s arrival in Michigan comes at a time when US lawmakers are also considering a ban of TikTok due to its Chinese connections and concerns over data security—which has only helped ramp up the xenophobia.

Gotion executives explained to the Senate committee this week that the company had undergone a voluntary review by the Department of Treasury’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the US to clear up any concerns. The committee determined “that our proposed transaction was not subject to further review and we may proceed with the proposed transaction,” said Chuck Thelen, the company’s vice president for North American operations.

“Despite what any current politician might say, there is no communist plot within Gotion to make Big Rapids a center to spread communism,” he also said at a township meeting this month.

State Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), who chairs the appropriations committee, released a statement after the vote that it was lawmakers’ responsibility to separate “fact from fiction and policy from politics,” and that Gotion’s voluntary actions had addressed any lingering concerns.

The funds approved Thursday are part of the state’s effort to attract large economic projects to Michigan. In February, the Michigan Strategic Fund also approved another large tax incentive package to bring a $3.5 billion electric vehicle battery plant to the state, planned by Ford.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has labeled the last few years as the “best economic recovery in Michigan history,” with 220,000 new Michigan jobs created in 2021, and 92,000 more created since last February—including at least 35,000 new automotive manufacturing jobs. 

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The rapid economic growth this year was enough to make Michigan the top state in the nation for electric vehicle and battery investments and energy job growth, as well as the future home of what Newsweek has labeled as America’s “next Silicon Valley” for mobility innovations.

“Michigan is a place that will drive the world forward through grit, our world-class workforce, and our stunning natural resources,” Whitmer said in a statement. “We will work together to show the world what makes Michigan the best place to invest, innovate, live and explore.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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