You know that things are not normal when an official for a $2.4 billion manufacturing project has to state that "there is no communist plot to make Big Rapids a center to spread communism" during a public panel discussion on the plans.
And yet that's the situation near Big Rapids, Mich., where Chuck Thelen, the North American vice president for Gotion Inc. — the U.S. subsidiary of China-based battery maker Gotion High-Tech Co. Ltd. — has had to defend its plans to build a plant that would employ more than 2,000 people making anode and cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.
Ferris State University, with strong training and research opportunities in plastics engineering, injection molding and mold design, would be nearby, providing a "once-in-a-century" opportunity, officials there said in October.
And yet an April 5 meeting in Green Township had to take place virtually due to security concerns, with Township Supervisor Jim Chapman telling our sister paper Crain's Detroit Business he had received death threats.
Gotion isn't alone. Ford Motor Co. and China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL) are taking heat for a planned 2,500-job, $3.5 billion battery plant in Marshall, Mich.
Despite the furor, both projects are slated to move forward, with Gotion expecting to begin construction in July.
"Over the past few months, we've been force fed a big fear sandwich," Thelen told Crain's Detroit.