Michigan lawmakers sign off on $175 million for Gotion development
Commentary: Jerrilynn Strong talking about the people who opposed the project: “All of them think that they speak for the county,” she said. “They do not.”
By Craig Mauger
20 April 2023
Lansing — A single vote made the difference Thursday and provided Michigan lawmakers’ final approval of $175 million in taxpayer incentives for Chinese electric vehicle battery maker Gotion Inc.’s much-debated plant near Big Rapids.
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 10-9 to approve the transfer of state tax dollars, allowing state officials to move forward with spending the money to bring a $2.4 billion EV battery parts facility to Green Township and an estimated 2,350 jobs to Mecosta County.
Supporters, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, have touted the plans as “the biggest ever economic development project in Northern Michigan.” But opponents have protested the effort, voicing concerns about environmental impacts on a rural area of the state and about the company’s connections to China.
The 10 yes votes came from Democratic lawmakers. The no votes came from three Democrats and six Republicans. After the Thursday hour-long meeting, Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing, said Democrats were looking out for “all Michiganders.”
“If you have actually been into this area, it’s one of the poorest communities in the state,” Anthony said. “So I think that it is a point of privilege for individuals to say that good paying jobs … for a very rural, very low-income area should not be considered with due diligence.”
But opponents, including Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Kristina Karamo, repeatedly focused on Gotion’s ties to China, saying they had national security concerns about the company controlling land in Michigan.
“If you choose to give these funds to Gotion, you are a Benedict Arnold. You are a traitor to this republic,” Karamo told lawmakers, referring to the Revolutionary War officer who defected to the British.
Gotion was founded in China in 2006, but its U.S. subsidiary has been incorporated in California since 2014. Volkswagen AG owns about 26% of the company. Its board is one-third German, one-third American and one-third Chinese.
After the committee meeting, Karamo thanked the three Democrats who opposed the transfer and said there needs to be recall campaigns against individuals who supported it.
The three Democrats who voted no were Sens. Rosemary Bayer of West Bloomfield, Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor and Sylvia Santana of Detroit.
Before the vote, Jerrilynn Strong, chairwoman of the Mecosta County Board of Commissioners, said a “small but vocal” group of opponents was against the project.