“We have not historically competed for projects of this scale,” Thelen said of the Gotion plant. “This is a rare moment for us to see this kind of opportunity. … To see them consider a corner of the state, the northwest portion of the state, that hasn’t seen projects like this frankly ever is a really exciting opportunity for us to see a path to really boost the economy in an area that’s been in decline.”
Rep. Donni Steele, a Republican from Oakland County’s Orion Township who opposed the transfer, noted that all three projects are EV battery factories.
“I’m just really kind of concerned moving forward in the state of Michigan that we don’t necessarily have really a vision and we don’t really have a lot of diversification,” she said.
She pointed to worker shortages and suggested that some of the incentives funding should instead go toward improving schools. Republicans also have criticized Chinese ties to two of the factories.
Thelen, however, said 40,000 people in West Michigan work for auto suppliers. He warned of a reduction in employment amid the transition to EVs because they are simpler to engineer and manufacture than cars powered by internal combustion engines.
“If we take no action, we stand to lose about a third of the employment in that industry, dramatically impacting the state of Michigan, dramatically impacting communities all across the state,” he said. “We have to find ways to offset that loss and reposition ourselves as leaders in this new economy, in this new automotive economy. That to me is why I think this is imperative.”
Rep. Phil Skaggs, an East Grand Rapids Democrat, supported the transfer. He cited competition from Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Nevada for EV investment.
“We have to win this competition for the engineering jobs that will come, the working jobs that will come, the entrepreneurs and the pizza shops, for the supply chain and the construction. This is an extraordinary, serious moment. And it calls for us to govern seriously, to put aside rhetoric, to put aside foreign policy hypotheticals and do what is right for Michigan, for Michiganders and our future.”