Michigan Strategic Fund board approves incentives for Gotion


BIG RAPIDS — The second big hurdle has been cleared for bringing Gotion, Inc., a global electric vehicle battery component manufacturing facility, to the Big Rapids area.

gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO Quentin Messer, Jr., announced in a news release that the state incentive package was unanimously approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF). The next step will be approval from the state House and Senate appropriations committees.

The release said the MSF board approved support that will enable up to a $2,364 billion investment in Michigan by Gotion, creating up to 2,350 new jobs in Big Rapids and the surrounding area, to serve increasing demand in the battery production industry.

In order to secure the project, which Michigan won over potential sites in Texas, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Illinois and Ohio, the release said, the MSF board approved a package of incentive support, including:

• A $125 million Critical Industry Program performance-based grant through the SOAR Fund
• An MSF Designated Renaissance Zone estimated to be worth $540 million
• A $50 million Strategic Site Readiness Program performance-based grant through the SOAR Fund, to be administered by The Right Place to assist with infrastructure improvements.

In addition to MSF support, both Green Charter Township and Big Rapids Charter Township anticipate approval of a PA 198 real property tax abatement. Green Charter Township, Big Rapids Charter Township and Mecosta County have also authorized a 30-year Renaissance Zone in support of the project, the release said.

Messer told the Pioneer that the MSF approved $125 million from the Capital Improvement Program and $50 million from the Strategic Site Readiness Program for a total of $175 million in SOAR, Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund dollars.

“This is great news coming to Big Rapids,” Messer said. “But what is critical to note is that these are performance reimbursement grant opportunities for this company. If it doesn’t perform, it doesn’t receive anything. We fully anticipate great success because we have done exhaustive due diligence. We feel good about this company. We feel good about their pipeline. We feel good about what this is going to mean, not only to the Big Rapids area and all of Northwest Michigan, but to the entire state.”

Joshua Hunt, MEDC chief projects officer, noted that the site readiness dollars do not go directly to Gotion, but will instead go through the regional economic development corporation to purchase land and do site preparation.

“In addition to this being milestone-driven, it is also reimbursement-based,” Hunt said. “The company will be required to invest their own dollars before receiving any proportional reimbursement back. In addition, there are repayments that the company will be required to make if they do not create the jobs associated with the project.”

Whitmer told the Pioneer that the approval of the state incentive package is “huge” and will show that Michigan has moved from being an afterthought to leading the pack when it comes to expansion and investment in advanced manufacturing.

“Gotion’s investment in bringing advanced battery manufacturing to the state of Michigan is an incredible boost for our economy, creating incredible job opportunities, as well as partnerships with the local community and the local university,” Whitmer said. “Obviously, there is a lot of excitement both locally and also statewide, because this proves our point that Michigan is competing and winning. This is critical as we think about good-paying jobs and advanced mobility and securing Michigan’s leadership in the industry.”

She explained that the state is in a global competition for transformational projects, involving companies that are aiming to invest billions of dollars and hire thousands of workers.

“This effort came to be because we worked across the aisle in the legislature (to enact the SOAR funding), we worked with the business community and we worked with local leadership in Big Rapids,” Whitmer said. “We were not only competitive, but we won this project. It is a great day for the Michigan economy and we are winning because we are working together.”

Ferris State University president Bill Pink said in the news release that the university is excited at the opportunity to partner with Gotion and other stakeholders on a project that will have significant impact for the university and the region.

“Gotion has made it clear that Ferris State University will be a strong partner in this effort for many years to come, and we are prepared to do so,” Pink said. “While we have not yet reached the finish line, the board approval has moved us one step closer to a collaboration that will positively impact and enhance our region and the state as a whole. I am excited about this opportunity to advance our region, the city of Big Rapids, and our great university.”

Chuck Thelen, vice president of Gotion Global, said in the release that the company is thankful to the Big Rapids community, the state of Michigan and all who have supported getting this project to this important milestone.

“We are dedicated to bringing this world-class lithium battery project to North America and delivering high-quality products to our customers in a timely fashion,” Thelen said. “We look forward to our continued partnership to ensure a smooth launch.”

Gotion will initiate a multi-phase project in Big Rapids, where it will build a battery components manufacturing facility to serve a growing customer base throughout North America and globally.

Messer said the facility will bring a significant number of direct jobs to the area but will also bring many indirect jobs.

“There is a proud industrial tradition in the Big Rapids area that we are now building on to bring it into the 21st century,” Messer said. “This will allow future generations of Ferris State University Bulldogs to have opportunities in some of the most advanced manufacturing sectors known. Michigan has a diversified economy that includes tourism and hospitality. We are now providing citizens of Big Rapids and other areas with jobs that will pay significantly above the average wage. They will have greater discretionary income to spend in the tourism and hospitality sector. A lot of people are going to see tremendous job opportunities as a consequence of this single investment.”

“This project has the potential to provide great jobs to multiple generations of our citizens, citizens who will not have to leave our community for this type of opportunity, but who will be able to stay, grow, and enrich our community through their presence, Mecosta County Controller/Administrator Paul Bullock said in the release.

Green Township supervisor Jim Chapman told the Pioneer that the township is pleased to see that the state has recognized the importance of this project to the region.

“There are a lot of steps to go yet, but we look forward to taking those challenges on and bringing this to fruition for the entire area,” Chapman said.

According to Randy Thelen, CEO of The Right Place, an economic development corporation that has been involved in the project, once the appropriations are approved at the state House and Senate level, the company will have the support it needs to make a final decision.

“At that time, we will move toward purchase of the land and planning out the infrastructure,” Randy Thelen said. “Some rezoning will need to be done at the local level, and development agreements between the townships and the company will need to be in place. Although there are still multiple steps to go through, we should start seeing some progress within the next six months.”

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