BIG RAPIDS — The Big Rapids area could experience a multi-billion dollar advanced battery manufacturing investment in the coming years, according to a recent media report confirming months of speculation about the project.
The Detroit News reported Tuesday night that Gotion Inc. — a U.S. subsidiary of a large Chinese battery manufacturer Guoxuan High-Tech Co. — is eyeing a development-ready industrial site near the Big Rapids airport and U.S. 131 for a $3.6 billion project that could create 2,000 jobs.
MiBiz reported in December about the potential for a major battery manufacturing site in Big Rapids, noting that Consumers Energy officials had been engaged with state and local economic development organizations.
Randy Thelen, president and CEO of economic development organization The Right Place Inc., said the Big Rapids site for the past 25 years has been assembled, developed and marketed for industrial use.
“The community has been prepared for an opportunity like this to materialize to utilize the infrastructure, airport, access to freeways and locally trained talent pool,” Thelen said in an emailed statement. “Local and state economic and municipal leaders, as well as Ferris State University, have been working diligently with the region’s best interest in mind as it explored this opportunity and are looking forward to disclosing more information and engaging the public.”
A Consumers Energy executive in December 2021 confirmed that the utility had been in discussions with economic development agencies over a potential project, which also will reportedly seek about $2 billion in tax incentives through a 30-year renaissance zone designation.
The Jackson-based utility, which state regulators have permitted to offer discounted electricity rates for large economic development projects, is a key player in supporting such a large, energy-intensive project.
“Consumers Energy is committed to helping Michigan compete for and win new businesses including the jobs and investment they create,” Consumers President and CEO Garrick Rochow said in a statement. “We are close to a potential partnership and transformational opportunity in the advanced manufacturing field in Big Rapids. As transformations of the automotive and other energy-intensive industries continue, we’re enabling the state’s manufacturing infrastructure to adapt, grow, and thrive.”
Thelen noted that the next step in the Gotion project involves property tax incentive approvals in Green Charter Township, Big Rapids Township and Mecosta County. The municipalities are tentatively scheduled to consider a potential renaissance zone on the property on Sept. 26. Mecosta County Administrator Paul Bullock called the plan an “extraordinary project” and a “once-in-a-century opportunity for Big Rapids area.”
Thelen said as the automotive sector undergoes its widespread transformation, “companies serving that sector often move at a rapid pace to accommodate emerging needs. As a result, once a decision is made to invest in a new facility, a company will work quickly to bring a factory online. That is very much the case with this opportunity. However, all parties involved understand there are still numerous processes and steps to be taken before this project becomes a certainty. We remain hopeful to announce more details soon on this project that would position the region at the center of West Michigan’s growing mobility and EV sector.”
The Gotion project would add to the ongoing wave of battery manufacturing developments in Michigan, including a $1.7 billion LG Energy Solution Inc. project in Holland and a $2.5 billion General Motors partnership near Lansing.
Thelen, who led the team at Lakeshore Advantage Corp. that mobilized in 2009 to lure in the LG Chem plant, noted in late 2021 that major automakers in Michigan are planning about $150 billion in electric vehicle and battery investments in the coming years.
“That’s a nearly unprecedented level of investment for that industry,” Thelen said at the time. “Inflation adjusted, it’s probably the biggest that’s occurred since the start of the industry 100 years ago. There’s a massive amount of capital being deployed. Certainly, West Michigan has a lot to offer.”