Michigan eyes new megasite near Flint Bishop airport with $1.5M funding
- The state allocated $6 million Tuesday toward advance preparation work for new development sites
- Up to $1.5 million will be used for land west of Flint, where parcels across three miles may be another of the state’s megasites
- The land, in Mundy Township, is largely agricultural and borders Flint’s Bishop International Airport
A new Michigan megasite taking shape near Flint received state approval for a $1.5 million allocation toward preparing the property for large-scale development on Tuesday.
The property — largely farm land rimmed by houses — stretches across three miles at the northern edge of Mundy Township in Genesee County, with Flint’s Bishop International Airport at the northeast corner.
The Michigan Strategic Fund, the public funding arm of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, voted unanimously to allocate $6 million to its Build Ready Sites Program.
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The money will be used to enhance development property, efforts that could include getting property under contract and infrastructure improvements as the state tries to identify and prepare more tracts of hundreds of acres or more that can accommodate major new developments.
Economic developers in Michigan and across the country say that timelines for development are shrinking as billions of dollars in advanced manufacturing projects — including electric vehicle battery development and semiconductor production — seek locations for factories and R&D centers.
“For Michigan to retain and gain a competitive advantage in business attraction expansion projects, it must assist with the development and enhancement of sites to make them investment ready and competitive for site selection,” said Quentin Messer Jr., CEO of the MEDC, during a media call before the MSF meeting.
The MSF approved giving up to $1.5 million to thef Flint and Genesee Chamber Foundation, which operates under the Flint & Genesee Group’s economic development arm.
The vote came three hours into the meeting due to an extensive public comment period, with voices raised in part against two other megasites already approved for state development funding: One in Marshall Township, where Ford Motor Co. wants to build a $3.5 billion EV battery factory, and another Big Rapids, where a controversial $2.3 billion proposal by Gotion Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese company, just received $175 million in state incentives.
“There seems to be a strong disconnect between people holding the purse strings … and people on the ground in these communities that are most affected by the changes,” Robert Weiss, a resident of Marshall Township who opposes the Ford deal, said at the meeting.
“The residents don’t feel listened to,” he said.
While neither the Ford nor Gotion projects were among the MSF votes on Tuesday, many others in the audience in Lansing or on the Zoom call spoke out against yet another state-funded deal: the District Detroit project, a $1.5 billion plan for housing, offices and other commercial space around Little Caesars Arena near downtown Detroit.
The MSF unanimously approved $615 million in tax capture reimbursements for the District Detroit developers, a joint venture of the Illitch family’s Olympia Development of Michigan and The Related Companies, led by billionaire Stephen Ross.
The request was made under the state’s Transformational Brownfield Plan, which joins the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) fund as a way for the state to provide incentives for so-called “transformative” projects.
State megasite developments in the pipeline eventually may be home to more of those types of projects.
One is located in Eagle Township, northwest of Lansing, where the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) is assembling 1,400 acres of land, some of it owned by Michigan State University, for a large project that could involve semiconductors. LEAP also received funding from the MSF on Tuesday, up to $2.5 million that the MEDC said was to be used for up to five sites ranging from 100 to 400 acres.
Another potential megasite is in the Durand area of Shiawassee County, between Flint and Lansing, where economic developers received a $680,000 grant in late December. The money is to be used for site preparation work such as surveys as the property near I-69 is considered for new businesses.
In Mundy Township, funding toward megasite development started in early 2022, when the Flint & Genesee Group received $250,000 for land work, then shared in a $5 million award in August.
At the time, the property was 981 acres in the township, which is west of Grand Blanc and just northwest of the Hill Road business corridor west of U.S.-23. Its boundaries are Hill Roads to the south, Elms Road to the west, Maple Road to the north and Jennings Road — which dead ends next to the airport — to the east.
Township Manager Chad Young told Bridge Michigan that Mundy Township is not involved in the megasite project. However, officials there recently added new zoning over the three-mile area identified by the state for a potential large-scale development. In addition to the existing land use, it’s also now covered by an Advanced Manufacturing Overlay District.
The zoning is needed for high tech uses such as engineering, design, R&D, robotics and possibly even biotech or medical research, according to the township.
While the property is being prepared for large-scale development, the minimum lot size in the new advanced manufacturing area is 10 acres. The township added a requirement that a project using 160 acres or more will require approval by the Mundy Township Board of Trustees and not just the township planning commission.
Adding the overlay makes the township’s expectations for the property clear and sets up processes for residents to weigh in when a proposal may be made, Young said.
While the township isn’t endorsing any megasite development on the property, Young said, it also recognizes the changes coming to manufacturing as the automotive industry moves toward electrification.
“Targeting the advanced manufacturing sector makes sense,” Young said. “We want to be prepared.”
The zoning move by the township — which will be followed later this year by master plan revisions — comes as some community opposition to other megasites continues, including at the MSF meeting.
Messer said in a media briefing before Tuesday’s meeting that the MEDC does not have a new strategy planned to address community pushback.
“Every community is different,” he said. “We’re always engaging with the local units of government (and) our regional and local economic development partners.
“We treat every opportunity, every large-scale site. … as its own entity,” Messer said. “We’re always trying to make sure that we’re responsive to its unique needs.”
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