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Mecosta County and township officials on Sept. 26 voted to approve a 30-year Renaissance Zone tax incentive for a potential electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant. Mecosta County and township officials on Sept. 26 voted to approve a 30-year Renaissance Zone tax incentive for a potential electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant. MIBIZ PHOTO BY KATE CARLSON

Mecosta County, township officials approve 30-year Renaissance Zone incentive for potential battery project

BY Monday, September 26, 2022 09:39pm

BIG RAPIDS — A trio of Mecosta County municipalities have approved a 30-year tax incentive to help lure a multi-billion dollar electric vehicle battery manufacturing facility that promises more than 2,000 jobs.

Officials from the county, Big Rapids Charter Township and Green Charter Township during a rare joint meeting Monday night in Big Rapids approved the 30-year Renaissance Zone for Gotion Inc. The company is a U.S. subsidiary of a large Chinese battery manufacturer, Guoxuan High-Tech Co.

The company surveyed 40 prospective sites across multiple states for the project, Chuck Thelen, vice president of Gotion Global who leads the company’s North American operations, said during the special meeting. The Big Rapids area is one of two potential sites for the project, Thelen said, without specifying the second location.

The first phase of the development would include expansive manufacturing facilities spanning roughly 100 to 120 acres, Thelen said. The due diligence phase of the project began 16 months ago, including “probably 13 iterations of how to make this scope of project work,” he added.

Big Rapids is an attractive location for Gotion for several reasons, including the proximity to a skilled labor force, Ferris State University and several other major universities that could assist in creating a talent pipeline for the battery plant, Thelen said.

Ferris State University is ready to assist Gotion and community partners for the project, University President Bill Pink said during the meeting.

“There are so many communities across this country that are envious of you right now,” Pink told government officials on Monday. “Many communities across this country would love to have this meeting that you’re having right now.”

Phase one of the project could bring up to 2,300 jobs to the area, which Gotion officials are confident could be met from the local talent pool in Mecosta County and the surrounding communities, based on a talent study the company commissioned. The study identified about 40,000 people who already work in manufacturing within a 45-minute drive from the site, Thelen said.

Approving the local 30-year Renaissance Zone, which effectively creates a tax-free zone for the company, is the first step in the process, said Randy Thelen, president and CEO of The Right Place Inc. 

Should the project move forward in Big Rapids, the site would need public utility improvements as well as state-level incentives through the Michigan Strategic Fund, Thelen said.

Kelly Wawsczyk, executive director at Mecosta County Development Corp., said the Michigan Strategic Fund is expected to consider incentives for the project early next month.

Several community members during Monday’s meeting spoke in favor of the project, citing its potential economic benefits to the county and surrounding communities. A couple of speakers said it would be important for Gotion to work with local partners throughout the process. 

Chuck Thelen noted that local contractors have been selected to build the manufacturing facility, though he did not disclose the company names.

Citing The Right Place’s incentive request to the local governments, the Detroit News reported last week that the project — known as “Project Elephant” — would involve a $2.4 billion private investment and create 2,350 jobs over the next decade. The project would reportedly span more than 520 acres between the two counties.

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Read 2346 times Last modified on Monday, 26 September 2022 21:54
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