MARSHALL, Mich. (WOOD) — The ‘Marshall Megasite’ project, an idea decades in the making, may finally have a buyer.
On Monday afternoon, Ford is expected to announce plans to build a $3.5 billion electric vehicle battery plant in Marshall Township.
“In terms of this scale and size from a plant perspective, it’s a big deal,” said Mike Wall, an auto analyst with IHS Markit. “A very big deal.”
The project would create 2,500 jobs.
“This kind of investment, they don’t just grow on trees,” Wall said. “These are something we need to court.”
The Marshall Megasite is a nearly 2,000 acre space tucked along I-94 and I-69 with railroad tracks to the south. The project would be a boon for Ford’s plans to produce more than 2 million electric vehicles by 2026.
“There are a number of new electric vehicles coming,” Wall said. “We need to have batteries to propel those vehicles.”
Ford is reportedly teaming up with CATL, a China-based battery maker. The automaker was interested in building the plant in Virginia, but that state’s governor shot down the plan because of CATL’s apparent ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
“Ford is going to be the anchor of this investment,” Wall said. “I get the concerns around a Chinese supplier in that sense but by the same token, with what Ford is doing here is clearly a Ford investment.”
Many Marshall residents have spoken out against the project in recent city council meetings, with some fearing it would change the city for the worse and that Marshall won’t be able to handle a surge in population and business.
“How many of those people are going to live in Marshall?” one resident asked during a Jan. 18 meeting. “Are we going to have another thousand people in Marshall? Where are they going to live? We have housing shortages now.”
“This manufacturing plant does not fit the scale of our community,” another resident said. “We’re 7,000 people. We’re creating a town next to it, and we’re killing off a wonderful green space, agricultural space, that surrounds this.”
Wall said he understands the community’s concerns, but it’s an opportunity West Michigan can’t afford to miss.
“You don’t want to have this come at the expense of the quality of life of a region,” Wall said. “But by the same token, given the scope and scale of this investment, it’s a hard one to pass up because it can be transformational to that region.”
Wall said that as the auto industry shifts to electrification, automakers need more labor. He believes the Marshall area would be a great area to draw workers from.
“We need a rich labor pool and base from which to draw,” Wall said. “That Marshall area checks the box there.”
Choose Marshall, the local economic development agency, has called it a once-in-a-generation opportunity that will bring back jobs lost.
“We’ve lost over the past 20 years over 2,000 jobs because of some major employers that have closed,” Choose Marshall CEO James Durian told News 8 last month. “This gives us an opportunity to bring those jobs back.”
Durian also said the plant will help create a talent pipeline to encourage young people to stay in Marshall.
“New opportunities for our young people to have a real career path,” Durian said. “They can get that career path right here in Marshall rather than going off to other regions.”
Wall called Ford’s plans a “transformational investment” that could trickle down into the community.
“That multiplier effect, you can’t emphasize that enough,” Wall said. “When you see those knock-on jobs. It’s your diners. It’s the housing market. All of that can benefit from that.”