MARSHALL, Mich. (WOOD) — Ford Motor Company is reportedly closing in on a deal to build a factory in West Michigan. 

The Detroit News reported Thursday morning that talks between Ford and Calhoun County leaders are progressing to build a battery plant in the Marshall area.

The 1,800-acre ‘Marshall Megasite‘ in Marshall Township is reported to be essentially Ford’s backup plan after Virginia’s governor rejected the proposal because of the battery supplier’s alleged ties with the Chinese communist party.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s comments were steered toward CATL, a privately-owned Chinese battery manufacturer. Auto analyst Mike Wall said this decision was a missed economic opportunity, since it deals with the world’s largest developer and manufacturer of lithium phosphate batteries.

FILE – The ‘Marshall Megasite’ would take over a nearly 2,000-acre space along I-94 and I-69 in Marshall Township.

“There is a significant fusion of capital, great job opportunities,” Wall said. “When we look at the opportunities that are being presented here, Ford wouldn’t approach this — I believe, firmly — without confidence in their supplier, in terms of building these batteries for eventual installation in their EVs.”

A Ford spokesperson said their talks with CATL continue and that they “plan to localize (lithium phosphate) battery production in North America … (but have) not made a site selection decision.” They did not confirm any reports surrounding the Marshall Megasite.

According to Wall, Ford currently has many suppliers in West Michigan but no operations.

“Most automakers have a strategic directive towards deploying more electric vehicles. In order to do so, you need the capacity. Not only the assembly plant to build the vehicles, but you also need the battery plant capacities,” Wall said.

Wall added Ford’s battery footprint in Kentucky alone is not enough to meet their goal of 2 million electric vehicles by 2026. With the megasite being just off I-94, Marshall’s location for logistics checks out.

A map of the ‘Marshall Megasite.’ (Courtesy Choose Marshall)

“The critical part here is, again, you want to be close to suppliers, you want to have a large enough site to be able to support that production,” Wall explained. “Proximity to rail obviously, airports — all of that is factored in the site selection and site development process.”

Two sources told the Detroit News that Ford would own the land and employ the workforce, while CATL would supply the battery expertise. If the talks turn to a sure deal, the multi-billion-dollar investment would bring 2,500 jobs to the area.

News 8 received statements from Choose Marshall, the area’s economic development alliance, and Battle Creek Unlimited, who serves Battle Creek in the same way. Both of them said the two agencies are not able or at liberty to discuss any specifics regarding potential projects or specific companies.

“We continue to be excited about the opportunity to create thousands of new jobs in an area that has lost thousands of jobs over the last 20 years,” a Choose Marshall spokesperson said.

“Winning one of these projects is an exciting opportunity for the area and would be a boon to Marshall, Battle Creek, and all of Calhoun County,” said Battle Creek Unlimited President & CEO, Joe Sobieralski. “A mega project has the potential to attract thousands of new residents to the region, which would increase property tax revenues, income tax revenues, bringing additional resources for public safety and schools.

Wall says if it becomes official, the prep and site work should be done “pretty quickly” with vehicles being built as soon as 18 months afterwards.

“I understand the political considerations, but this plant is going to be built,” Wall added. “Make no bones about it.”