It’s been almost four months since a major battery manufacturer started finalizing a deal to open a new plant in the Big Rapids area, and yet the plant is still awaiting approval.
, boards for Big Rapids and Green Townships as well as Mecosta County took the first steps to allow battery manufacturer, . to open a new plant at the Industrial Park. Board members approved to make the area a ‘Renaissance Zone’ allowing for tax free usage. , Ferris State University President Dr. Bill Pink said Ferris will grow with Gotion and create an EV battery program that suits both organizations.
Big Rapids Township owns about 115 acres of land at the Industrial Park between them and Green Township. The land has been for sale for 20 years and it’s been over a decade since any of it has been purchased. The township’s supervisor, Bill Stanek, says they’d like to sell it, but first want to hear concerns from residents.
“We are just trying to do our research trying to make sure what the people. The reason for the survey is for if people really want the project, and we can answer the questions for the ones that are concerned,” Stanek explains.
According to the survey, people have raised two main concerns: The company’s origin and the impact it will have on the environment.
“People called it a Chinese company and it’s not a Chinese company,” Stanek claims. “They have Americans on their board as well as Europeans and Chinese on their board. It is truly an international company and not any way connected to the Chinese government.”
On top of resident’s concerns, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy is another reason the deal hasn’t been finalized.
“Right now, there are some wetland concerns up there and EGLE [is investigating] right now. They have to decide if we can relocate some of those wetlands. If that can’t be done, then it’s a no go for [Gotion]
The Executive Director for Michigan Works of West Central, Shelly Keene, says she appreciates everyone doing their due diligence, but says the pros will far outweigh the cons.
“It’s going to make a huge impact on all the small businesses. It’s going to bring new businesses to the area, and not only is it going to impact Mecosta County, [but it’s also] going to impact our surrounding counties,” Keene states.
Keene says they’re eager for the new plant to break ground and help them find the talent they need.
Barring any issues with EGLE’s investigation, the Big Rapids Charter Township Board plans to make their decision on whether to sell the land by April.
“We want people to feel comfortable with this coming to Big Rapids. This is a great opportunity, and we need to move forward on it, but we need people to feel comfortable,” Stanek says.