Gotion halts Michigan factory plans

Chinese battery parts manufacturer Gotion Inc. is reassessing plans for a $2.4 billion factory in Michigan’s Big Rapids area after scrutiny from a township board.

The company, which originally planned to build a portion of the plant on 115 acres in Big Rapids Township, is now focusing solely on the core 500 acres in Green Township, said township Supervisor Jim Chapman.

Chapman said he learned of the company’s decision to pause plans in the neighboring township during a phone call with Gotion executive Chuck Thelen this week.

“My take on it all is they are not shutting the door on Big Rapids Township, merely putting that on hold and moving forward on Green Township to get the project going,” Chapman said.

Thelen could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

Gotion announced last year it would build a battery parts plant in Big Rapids and create up to 2,350 jobs across four new manufacturing plants spanning a combined 2 million square feet. It was approved for $715 million in state incentives.

Since then, the project has been subject to some opposition, primarily for its ties to China and environmental concerns.

The company notified the Big Rapids Township board of trustees this week that it would not focus on the township property, the Big Rapids Pioneer reported Friday.

Last week, the Big Rapids Township board voted to have the township’s attorney request a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

“They keep saying it’s China; it’s the Chinese …” Big Rapids Township Supervisor Bill Stanek told Crain’s Detroit Business last week in reference to those opposing the plant. “They’re just worried about the future, basically is what it is. We don’t know what the future is gonna be, and they’re determined to make sure that we don’t have anything coming to our town.”

Last week, Stanek said board opposition could cause the company to take the entire project to Green Township. Such a move would cause  Big Rapids Township to lose more than $1 million from the sale of the land and a water tower.

Stanek could not be reached for comment Friday.

The Big Rapids Township board appears to be the sole pocket of resistance to the project, which has support from the city of Big Rapids, Green Township and Mecosta County, Chapman said. The township voted unanimously a month ago in favor of a resolution to support the plant.

“Eighteen Mile Road is an arbitrary line,” Chapman said of the road that bisects the counties and original project footprint. “The goal is to bring this project to the community. It’s important to the community, the county and the region. The fact that its north of, south of, or both sides of one blacktop road is not relevant.”

Eleanore Beatty

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