ROMULUS, Mich. (WOOD) — Ford Motor Co. will sink $3.5 billion into a new electric vehicle battery plant that will create 2,500 jobs in the Marshall area, saying the type of batteries being made will help lower the cost of EVs.
“There will not be any more affordable battery than this one built in the U.S,” Ford CEO Jim Farley said.
Named BlueOval Battery Park Michigan, the plant will go up at the ‘Marshall megasite,’ a 2,000-acre plot in the area of I-94 and I-69 in Marshall Township, just west of the city of Marshall.
Ford announced the new battery park at a news conference at its battery site in Romulus, near Detroit, on Monday afternoon. In attendance were Farley, Executive Chair Bill Ford and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“(Michigan was) clearly the hands-down winner of all the sites” considered for the plant, Farley said.
Pay for the new jobs will range from $20 per hour and $50 per hour. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. said the project is expected to produce $29.7 billion in new personal income over the next 20 years.
“These jobs will bring opportunities for our area residents, benefits to local business and help us attract additional investment into the region to address issues like housing and our parks,” Marshall Mayor Jim Schwartz said.
The bulk of the megasite property is in Marshall Township, but some of it is in the city. The mayor said the city will take up annexing all of it at a meeting next week.
The battery park will produce lithium iron phosphate, or LFP, batteries, which the automaker said are the latest in EV battery technology and are made of easier to get and less expensive materials.
“These batteries will be more affordable, incredibly durable and they’ll charge faster,” Bill Ford summed it up. “Manufacturing these new batteries in America will help us build more EVs faster and will ultimately make them more affordable for our customers.”
“These batteries are the most affordable battery chemistry there is,” Farley told reporters. “So the whole point of this project is to lower the cost of EVs so that normal people can buy them.”
The plant is part of the Ford+ plan to reach an annual-run rate of 2 million electric vehicles globally by 2026. Bill Ford said the expansion of LFP battery technology would help the company meet the clean air commitments it has made.
LFP batteries will be offered in the Mustang Mach-E starting in the spring. Supply will scale up once the Marshall plant is up and running.
“When the plant comes online in 2026, we will deliver one of the lowest-cost batteries produced in the United States. And it’s good business and it’s good for our customers,” Farley said. “With this new plant, we’re further strengthening our own supply chain … to get our higher-quality, higher-performance EVs to customers even sooner.”
The Ford leaders thanked the governor for her team’s aid in making the battery park project happen.
“Today, we are coming together to celebrate a big win for Team Michigan,” Whitmer said. “We’re going to make electric vehicles, top to bottom, right here in the great state of Michigan and I am grateful to Ford, an American icon, for believing in Michigan.”
Shortly before Ford’s news conference, the MEDC Michigan Strategic Fund board unanimously approved a total of $246 million in grants and loans to support the plant: a critical industry program performance-based grant of up to $210 million to support the $3.5 billion capital investment and the 2,500 new jobs, and a $36 million Jobs for Michigan Investment Fund loan to the Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance to purchase, improve and convey the parcels for the project. The board also approved at 15-year MSF Renaissance Zone.
“There was no lack of competition for this project. Michigan competed against numerous states and countries to win this investments, in large part because of strong economic development tools…” Ford Economic Development Director Gabby Bruno told the MSF board. “These jobs and investments wouldn’t be possible without the support of state and local government.”
“We’ve got to stay at the table. We’ve got to compete. We’ve got the best workforce in the world,” Whitmer said.
Ford was interested in building the plant in Virginia, but that state’s governor shot down the plan because of China-based battery maker collaborator CATL’s apparent ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
The automaker stressed the Marshall plant will be a wholly owned Ford subsidiary, with Bill Ford saying CATL would “help us get up to speed so that we can build these batteries ourselves.”
“Batteries made here in Michigan and made for America,” he said.
The company said building domestically would allow it to benefit from the federal Inflation Reduction Act, one aspect of which is aimed to encourage domestic energy production with a focus on clean energy.
“Manufacturing these new batteries in America will bring us closer to battery independence,” Bill Ford said. “Right now, many automakers import most of their batteries from abroad. This is a slow, expensive process that makes us vulnerable to supply chain disruptions.”
Marshall leaders touted the expansion as a “once-in-a-generation” economic opportunity that would enrich the community.
“It will create economic opportunities while allowing us to preserve our unique local culture, character and way of life,” Marshall City Manager Derek Perry said during the MSF meeting. “This also will create opportunities for young people who are too often forced to leave our area or our state in search of economic opportunities. That’s important to us. We know that this kind of opportunity does not come along often and we cannot afford to lose it to other communities or other states.”
But there has been opposition to the plant among residents in the town of nearly 7,000, who are worried about its scale in comparison to the small town and the elimination of green space.
“I’m concerned about the water pollution,” Marshall Township resident John Rothwell said. “I’m concerned about the air pollution and the light pollution. Noise. Everything that a large facility like that will bring to the area.”
“It would ruin small-town community, I’m sure,” Marshall resident Randy Richard said.
“I’ve heard from you that preserving Marshall’s historic charm and great natural beauty is a high priority for all residents,” Mayor Schwartz said. “And I do agree.”
To that effect, Ford has promised to reserve 245 acres on the south side of the battery park, along the Kalamazoo River, for a conservation easement. The automaker also says it will work to save natural resources and recreation near the facility.
“Marshall is a beautiful historic town and we don’t want to change that,” Bill Ford said. “This land along the Kalamazoo River will be preserved for generations to come. And the Ford Fund will also be contributing resources to help the community explore how to best enjoy this beautiful land.”
Schwartz said the conservation was evidence that city leaders and Ford were “listening and (opponents) are being heard.” He said he was certain the community could benefit from the plant while maintaining its small-town charm.
RESIDENTS WORRY ABOUT ENVIRONMENT, COMMUNITY
Still, some residents said they don’t want good farmland destroyed. A small group of them gathered near City Hall Monday morning to protest.
“It was good, productive farmland,” Randy Richard said. “Once you ruin that, you put concrete over that, you’re not going to grow anything.”
Residents fear the land will be polluted.
“The environmental impact … this will have creating water, air, sound and light pollution,” said Rebecca Glotfelty, who grew up in Marshall.
Glotfelty noted the land runs along the Kalamazoo River, saying it could have “huge environmental impact to the biodiversity and wildlife in the area.”
“It’s not the best site to do this, I would think,” Richard added. “It’s going to ruin the ecosystem of the land out there by the Kalamazoo. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
He said the site could be built in many other spots instead.
“I know this site is supposed to create jobs, but it could be put in a more convenient spot,” he said.
Some residents fear the plant will change the character of small-town Marshall by adding more traffic and noise.
“I love the city of Marshall because it’s a nice, small, farm-town community,” John Rothwell said. “And I’m afraid that if this megasite comes in here, a lot of that is going to be destroyed.”
“We are caretakers of this historic places,” Glotfelty, whose extended family had property on the battery park site, said. “We have 750 buildings in our historic district. We are a gem. And Marshall residents want to protect this. We don’t want to be people that say not in my backyard, but we are a special community and we protect this for the last 75 years.”
Glotfelty said Marshall already has a traffic problem and a housing shortage, which she believes will only worsen with a population surge.
“I see it’s a big shift in who we are by proposing this megasite,” she said. “And I feel that it will drastically change with the amount of traffic that will be in town.”
James Durian, the CEO of Choose Marshall, the local economic development agency, says the plant will keep young people in Marshall by providing high-paying jobs.
“New opportunities for our young people to have a real career path when they can get that career path right here in Marshall rather than going off to other regions,” Durian told News on Jan. 17.
The plant would bring thousands of jobs to an area that’s seen employers leave over the last two decades. But Rothwell worries that one day Ford will leave, too.
“Why did they lose those jobs to begin with?” Rothwell said. “I’ve lived around here for 28 years now and I’ve watched places come into Marshall, set up, they’re here for a few years and then they leave. How long will that place be here before they decide they can make those batteries cheaper somewhere else?”
Some say they’re now considering leaving the city they fear they won’t recognize anymore.
“They’re already looking to move from the city,” Glotfelty said. “They purposely moved here. We’re already hearing people say they’re looking to move out of the community.”
“I just think it’s a bad match and a bad fit for Marshall, Michigan,” Rothwell concluded.
—News 8’s Kyle Mitchell contributed to this report.