As Ford Motor Co. and its Chinese battery partner close in on a home for a $3.5 billion EV battery plant, some residents are speaking out against development of the megasite in Marshall.
Michigan officials have said the state is “aggressively” pursuing the lithium iron phosphate battery factory planned by the Dearborn-based automaker and Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. that would bring 2,500 jobs.
The state has offered its marquee, 1,900-acre megasite in Calhoun County near I-69 and I-94 — some 10 miles east of Battle Creek — and Ford appears to be nearing a decision.
Officials in Calhoun County have said developing the megasite would be “transformational” for a small community hurt by loss of population and jobs, but not all are on board.
Dozens of residents have expressed opposition to or concern over the development of the farmland for manufacturing, according to meeting minutes posted online Monday by the city of Marshall. The primary concerns were environmental impact and disrupting the quiet way of life for a tight-knit community.
“A written comment was received from Greg Kowalske of Marshall Township opposing the mega site as he believes it will change the character of the town and that hidden deals have been made,” the minutes said.
One resident said “an influx of people would ruin the town,” while another said development “would destroy the properties and the river.”
The comments were made in protest of a deal to transfer land that would bring development of the site a step closer to reality. Council members voted unanimously to approve it last month.
Some residents voiced support and said the project would help alleviate job cuts by Eaton Corp., State Farm and other employers in the county in recent years.
While Ford has yet to make an announcement, representatives from the automaker have met with local officials to discuss the project as recently as this week, sources confirmed to Crain’s.
Ford declined to comment.
Ford’s movement came as the Democratic-led state Legislature on Thursday considered a tax-cut bill that would add up to $1.5 billion to Michigan’s new business attraction fund over three fiscal years, starting in the current budget.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is also seeking to deposit $800 million into the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund immediately at the request of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
The SOAR Fund currently has about $200 million that has not been committed to projects or site-development efforts.
The fund has been used to land electric vehicle battery factories, such as Gotion Inc. in the Big Rapids area and Our Next Energy Inc. in metro Detroit, amid intense multi-state competition to onshore EV, semiconductor and other manufacturing in the United States.
Ford-CATL’s planned battery plant has also been fraught with political tension.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said last month that he removed his state from consideration for the factory — Michigan’s only publicly known competitor for the plant — because it would serve as a “Trojan horse” for China into the U.S., helping the Far East bolster its EV battery dominance and spread its influence.
Ford-CATL has not detailed the exact makeup of its partnership, but a source close to the plan said it would be unlike a traditional joint venture in that Ford would own the plant with employees on its payroll, while CATL would provide battery technology and expertise.
It remains unclear what incentives Michigan is offering Ford to land the plant. The MEDC has declined to comment on it. It also remains a mystery who else Michigan might be competing against with Virginia out of the picture.
— Crain's Detroit Business reporter David Eggert contributed to this report.
From Crain’s Detroit Business.