Chinese electric vehicle battery company Gotion announced Tuesday it purchased 270 acres of land in Green Charter Township, Michigan, as part of its plan to build a “state-of-the-art battery components facility.”
Gotion — a subsidiary of the Hefei, China-based Gotion High-Tech — first unveiled its plans to construct the battery plant months ago with the support of Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, but has since faced local opposition over its ties to the Chinese government.
“Completion of the land acquisition process is a step forward for Gotion Inc. and the region as a whole,” Chuck Thelen, Gotion’s vice president of North American operations, said in a statement.
“We’ve listened to the concerns of local residents and decided not to purchase two large parcels of land zoned for agriculture use at this time,” Thelen continued. “Gotion Inc. will continue to work with members of the community, and our municipal, county and state partners, throughout this entire process.”
According to Thelen, the company’s land acquisition mainly consists of land zoned for industrial use. However, some of the land acquired is currently designated for residential or agricultural use and Thelen added Gotion would work with local officials to rezone that property for industrial use.
In October, Whitmer announced that Gotion would invest $2.4 billion to construct two 550,000 square-foot production plants along with other supporting facilities spanning 260 acres Green Charter Township. She applauded the proposal, saying it would shore up Michigan’s status as the “global hub of mobility and electrification.”
However, Republican lawmakers, national security experts, residents and local leaders have scrutinized Gotion’s proposal, pointing to its Chinese ownership and ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The corporate bylaws of Gotion High-Tech requires the company to “carry out Party activities in accordance with the Constitution of the Communist Party of China.”
“I will continue to do everything I can to bring to light the risks of this project,” said Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Mich., who represents the district where Gotion’s land purchase took place and who serves on the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.
“Mecosta County residents have overwhelmingly spoken out against this deal while being bullied and kept in the dark by Gotion and local officials who signed non-disclosure agreements that go against the public’s right to know,” he added. “The simple facts are that Gotion is a subsidiary of a company that pledges allegiance to the CCP and it should not be receiving taxpayer money to build in Michigan.”
In addition to criticism over its ties to China, lawmakers including Moolenaar have expressed concern about the proximity of Gotion’s proposed plant to U.S. military bases. The facility would be located within 60 miles of military armories and within 100 miles from Camp Grayling, the largest U.S. National Guard training facility in the country.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that the Michigan National Guard trains Taiwanese soldiers during annual military exercises at Camp Grayling.
“For our state to welcome CCP investment in Michigan 100 miles from the same facility where the Michigan National Guard has worked with military officials from Taiwan is a dangerous double standard that puts national security at risk,” Moolenaar said. “This land purchase in Green Township is a step backwards for Michigan and our communities.”
And in a 10-9 vote in April, the Michigan state Senate Appropriations Committee gave the final stamp of approval for granting Gotion $175 million in direct taxpayer funding to help build the facility.
“I’m angry. I’m angry that this vote was slipped into the agenda today with as little information as possible so that people like me wouldn’t know it was happening,” Marjorie Steele, a local resident, said during the hearing. “I’m angry that you, our elected officials, have ignored my community’s pleas to table this vote until some small semblance of due diligence can be performed.”
“I can promise you that we will not stop at the local level,” she added. “We are tired of being abused and we are not alone. This is not just a Mecosta County issue. Townships and counties across the state are uniting, sharing resources, manpower and grassroots activism. Your votes today, senators, are lines drawn in the sand.”