(The Center Square) – A day after Ford Motor Co. said it would pause construction on its $3.5 billion Marshall electric vehicle battery plant subsidized by $1.7 billion, the state of Michigan allocated the site another $65 million.
The Michigan Strategic Fund approved a $65 million Strategic Site Readiness Program Grant to the Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance for land acquisition, site studies and water and wastewater upgrades.
On top of that, lawmakers approved $750 million for site readiness. Lawmakers said the plant would create 2,500 jobs with an average pay of $45,136.
Ford said it’s wasn’t confident it could “competitively operate” the plant.
The Michigan Strategic Fund previously approved incentives for the BlueOval Battery Park, including a $210 million Critical Industry Program grant from Michigan’s Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund; $772 million in Renaissance Zone property; and a real tax exemption over 15 years; and a $36 million loan.
Michigan Economic Development Corp. Communications Manager Otie McKinely told The Center Square in an email: “To date, Ford has not received any CIP funding. All funding thus far has been expended to support the development of the Marshall site, including assemblage of Ford and non-Ford parcels, which would be applicable for any prospective tenant of the site.”
The construction pause follows a UAW strike against the Big Three automakers seeking higher wages, more benefits, and more time off for the same pay.
Rep. Dylan Wegela, D-Garden City, voted against “corporate handouts” earlier this year.
“Corporate handouts never work,” Wegela told The Center Square in a phone interview. “It’s something that we have continuously been doing over the past several decades under Republicans and Democrats.”
Wegela said Michigan’s past economic development strategy has been a “mistake.”
“I don’t think we can trust corporations to do right by our community,” Wegela said, adding examples of automakers such as General Motors taking millions of dollars in subsidies and then laying off workers or building factories overseas.
Wegela questioned why taxpayers would foot nearly half the bill for a factory that doesn’t belong to taxpayers.
“When you spend $1.8 billion on a factory that only cost $3.5 billion to make, excuse my language, but you might as well buy the damn thing yourself and run it at the state so we can get all the profits,” Wegela said. “It’s asinine.”
Instead, Wegela suggested spending $1.7 billion on “compassion economics” such as mental health services, ending chronic homelessness or bridge repairs.
Rep. Matt Hall, R-Richland Township, said Michigan should spend $65 million fixing infrastructure instead of site readiness.
“Instead of giving away the people’s money to a few electric battery plants, we should invest in roads, bridges, and public safety and foster a competitive economy that will attract all kinds of business opportunities and careers to our state,” Hall said in a statement.