Marshall megasite wins Ford EV battery plant project with Chinese partner
- Ford Motor Co. appears to have chosen a megasite in Marshall for a massive EV battery factory
- Sources say the state will consider a request Monday from the automaker for funding assistance
- Ford has been looking for a site for a factory with Chinese battery partner CATL
Ford Motor Co. appears poised to announce it will build a massive electric vehicle factory with a Chinese partner on 1,900 acres of mostly farmland in Marshall.
Sources told Bridge Michigan the automaker’s request for state funding to assist the project will be heard at a special meeting of the Michigan Strategic Fund at 12:30 p.m. Monday.
Ford, meanwhile, has a press briefing scheduled at 1:45 p.m. at its Ford Ion Park in Romulus, though company officials late Friday would not confirm an announcement.
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However, the automaker said in an email the event targets its EV development and news “on how Ford, America’s No. 2 EV company in 2022, is working to scale EVs quickly and, ultimately, make them more accessible to customers.”
Reports, including from Crain’s Detroit Business, indicate the mid-Michigan factory will be a lithium iron phosphate factory planned by Ford and Chinese battery giant Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL), with estimates ranging from $2.5 to $3.5 billion.
If that’s the case, the project will promise about 2,500 new jobs and add to Michigan’s growing share of EV-related developments as the auto industry pursues $76 billion in new U.S. facilities and shifts from today’s 20 EV models to 200 by 2030.
So far this year, the state has secured $13 billion in electric vehicle and battery manufacturing projects and announced nearly 13,000 new automotive jobs, according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office, which would not confirm the Ford deal on Friday evening.
Whitmer spokesperson Bobby Leddy said in an email he could not “speculate on specific projects” but touted business incentive laws Whitmer previously signed.
Michigan is seeing “economic momentum as we win deal after deal to grow our economy, create good-paying jobs, and bring critical supply chains home from China to Michigan,” Leddy said.
Details about Ford’s plans for EV battery factory development became public in January when Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said his administration halted efforts for Ford to develop it there over concerns about Chinese Communist Party influence in the project. At the time, Michigan appeared to be Virginia’s only competitor for the project.
Efforts to develop the Marshall property, assembled over years as a potential megasite, were jumpstarted by state and local economic development officials last year as they added acreage under contract and started to do site prep work to get it so-called “shovel ready.”
The property is located south of I-94 on rural land just west of Marshall in Marshall Township, about 12 miles east of Battle Creek. Site preparation has been aided by state funding through large-scale development incentives made possible last January by the $1.6 Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) Fund.
The SOAR fund was initiated in fall 2021 after Ford chose Kentucky and Tennessee for $11.4 billion in EV investment, bypassing its home state and igniting fears that Michigan could lose its automotive edge if automakers continued to build in the South.
James Durian, CEO of Choose Marshall, an economic development agency, led the Marshall site preparation effort. He did not respond to Bridge’s request for comment on Friday.
However, in an interview with Bridge last spring, he said any development on the site promised “thousands of new jobs for the region” with the goal of adding to the Calhoun County tax base.
Opposition to development in Marshall has grown over the past month as residents mobilized against efforts by Choose Marshall to acquire farmland that is part of the property and to annex portions of it into the city of Marshall to allow utility delivery. The city of Battle Creek spoke in favor of the annexation, saying that it would be supplying water to the property.
However, dozens of people filled the Marshall Township Hall in January when the board voted to move ahead with the annexation, according to a report in the Battle Creek Enquirer.
Rebecca Glotfelty, a member of the group opposed to the project, told Bridge on Friday that she’s disheartened that Ford appears to be planning a massive factory on the property.
“Marshall will lose 1,800 acres of farmland and wild spaces if this plan moves forward,” she said, adding “this project should not be considered in this location or any other rural location when vacant industrial sites exist across the state.”
The project is expected to be facilitated by state incentives, including at least some support through the SOAR Fund.
There is roughly $200 million left in the SOAR Fund, which is designed to help the state lure big development projects, but the Whitmer administration and Democratic legislative leaders are looking to add more.
The Michigan House on Thursday narrowly approved a tax relief package that would also funnel up to $500 million a year in corporate income tax revenue into the SOAR fund.
Whitmer has pushed for the annual allocation as a way to create a sustained funding source for the incentive program. The state Senate is expected to vote on the legislation as soon as Tuesday.
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