BIG RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A new set of incentives approved Wednesday moves West Michigan closer to becoming an electric vehicle battery manufacturing powerhouse for the country.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Strategic Fund Board approved $175 million in performance-based grants and 30 years of tax incentives worth an estimated $540 million to bring Gotion to the Big Rapids area. In turn, the global battery company is expected to invest $2.36 billion and create up to 2,350 jobs in the state.

Those close to the project say it’s an investment that’s been years in the making.

“The project represents the largest economic development project this far north in the great history of Michigan,” MEDC President and CEO Quentin Messer Jr. said before the vote.

Jeremy Webb with the MEDC said the project represents “a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the greater Big Rapids area.”

“These 2,350 well-paying jobs will help increase the tax base in the area over the next six to 10 years, and it will change the image of West Michigan as a hub for advanced battery production technology,” said Brent Case, vice president of business attraction for West Michigan economic development agency The Right Place.

Gotion’s new manufacturing site will be in a Big Rapids Township industrial park northwest of Roben-Hood Airport near US-131 that has sat vacant for more than 20 years, according to Case. The company plans to develop 324 acres, building four plants and the infrastructure needed to produce lithium iron phosphate cathodes and anodes for electric vehicle batteries.

The site near Big Rapids where a battery plant may be built. (Sept. 21, 2022)
(A Sept. 21, 2022, photo shows the site near Big Rapids where Gotion is expected to develop its battery component facilities.)

Volkswagen owns 26.2% of Gotion, but it’s unclear who the battery company’s customers will be.

Gotion’s new facility is expected to inject $11.5 billion in new personal income into the area through direct, indirect and new jobs generated by local spending over 20 years.

“This project will reverse the population decline in that region. It’ll provide a lot of local jobs to young people so they don’t have to move out of the area, such as I did and such as Jeremy (Webb) did when we were younger. It’ll also bring in addition to the project, many new suppliers, housing opportunities, hotels, restaurants, and more customers for existing businesses in the Big Rapids area,” Case said.

Gotion plans to partner with nearby Ferris State University to help prepare the talent needed to fill the company’s jobs.

“You have Ferris State graduates — women and men who graduate from Ferris and prior to this opportunity felt like they had to go somewhere else. Now they have an option to stay in Big Rapids ‘cause when they decided to enroll in Big Rapids, they love that part of the state. They love the scenic beauty, they love the proximity to the outdoors. And then you have a bunch of the Bulldog Nation taking a look at this and saying, ‘I got a chance to come home…’ And so we’re gonna aggressively come alongside the company, come alongside Ferris, come alongside our local partners to tell the message that there’s opportunity in that beautiful part of the state,” Messer said.

The MEDC says Gotion will pay an average hourly wage of $29.42, well above the $17.99 an hour needed to afford basic necessities within Mecosta County.

(A conceptual rendering provided by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation shows what Gotion’s cathode production facilities may look like when complete in Big Rapids Township.)

Messer said while Gotion is founded and based in China, the company was planning to invest in the U.S. no matter what, and is legally allowed to do so on both the state and federal levels.

“Michiganders deserve to have opportunities in the sector that they built,” Messer said. “They were going to invest in the U.S., why not Michigan?”

The MEDC says unlike other components, EV battery packs must be produced near vehicle assembly plants because long-distance shipping isn’t an option. The panel said projects like these also make Michigan more attractive to future parts suppliers and vehicle assembly plants, and will provide new opportunities for industry workers as automakers transition away from gas-powered engines.

In addition the incentives approved by the state Wednesday, Green and Big Rapids townships expect to approve a real property tax break for Gotion.

Gotion is expected to start work on the plant early next year and complete the entire four-facility campus by 2029.