Mecosta County’s grassroots fight to protect their agricultural community & the Lake Michigan watershed.
The plant is slated to be built atop what is currently a pristine wetlands site, and host to many rare species, including blue heron, bald eagles, several species of bats, and possibly even the Karner blue butterfly. What’s more: this wetlands site, which helps to regulate local aquifers, runs through a creek less than half a mile long into the Muskegon River, which is a major Lake Michigan waterway.
As if that weren’t enough, the amount of water Gotion proposes to take from the local aquifer is more than Nestle’s Ice Mountain. It’s 715,000 gallons per day.
This site WILL negatively impact local agriculturalists, and the local watershed. The lack of environmental due diligence has been shocking, and we as residents have no faith that our state regulatory agencies, like EGLE, will do anything to prevent what appears to be a looming ecological catastrophe.
“Good jobs” are the justification that legislators and township, county, and state officials have cited as the sole justification for bringing the Gotion EV battery plant to Big Rapids. Senator Sarah Anthony, Chair of the Michigan Senate’s Appropriations committee, stated that it was “a point of privilege” that Mecosta County residents should question “good paying jobs…for a very rural, very low-income area”.
This ignores the reality that there are over 1,700 unfilled local jobs already–possibly more. It also ignores the fact that Mecosta County residents intentionally choose to live in a low-income area. It also ignores the reality that many rural residents are able to achieve a high standard of living on a low income, thanks to the self-sufficiency of agricultural living.
But most damning of all: Gotion’s latest wage projections of $52K per year fall $13K below the national average wage of $60K per year. Senator Anthony justifies supporting the Gotion project by citing the $25,050 Mecosta County per capita income from 2021. Yet with a Gotion breadwinner’s wage of $52K per year, averaged over the national average family size of 2.48, the per capital income of Gotion-employed families would be $20,967–which is significantly LESS than the current per capita income of $25,050.
These are not GOOD jobs. They’re just more wage slavery.
In July of 2022, joint heads of MI5 and the FBI warned of the “immense” threat China’s business practices posed to United States security. Ambassadors Hoekstra and Cella have called into question Gotion Inc. and Michigan officials’ potential violation of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, and local officials have expressed grave concerns. To date, no CFIUS review has been completed, due to Gotion’s failure to provide the required information.
Gotion, Inc., which of course is a subsidiary of the Chinese company Guaoxuan High-Tech, currently has zero manufacturing facilities here in the United States. Its California headquarters is a research and development facility with less than 100 employees. In other words: if Gotion, Inc. the subsidiary truly is a company independent of its Chinese holding company, then it’s a startup that has no idea what it’s doing.
The staggering volume of freight trucks on the roads daily alone should give anyone pause in the planning and consideration of this project. The impacts of the housing developments that would be required to house the new workers who would have to move to the area, the new services which would be required, rises in cost of living, rises in property taxes and the correlation to projected rise in income (or lack thereof)–all these economic impacts should be evaluated on a project like this. To date, the public has been provided no such information.
Over 1,700 jobs are currently unfilled within the Big Rapids area. Our unemployment rate in Mecosta County is currently 6%–only 2% higher than the national average–and the reality is that in an idyllic agricultural area like Big Rapids, many folk choose to remain unemployed, as they prefer to “work to live, rather than live to work”. We’re not desperate for jobs.
Contrary to the messaging of Gotion’s PR team’s media antics, Gotion has not provided information nearly adequate to understand the potential health and safety risks of plant workers, local residents, and local firefighters. No guidelines or emergency preparedness plan has been provided, either to the public or to local fire departments.
As has been mentioned elsewhere, neither Gotion nor The Right Place have yet to produce an environmental impact study, including any information about the impact on the wetlands that will be destroyed, the local wildlife, the aquifers, or the Muskegon River watershed.
The truth is we have very little authoritative information about that, because...
In March, The Right Place admitting no environmental impact studies existed. At the May 9th Green Charter Township Board Meeting, Gotion VP Chuck Thelen said environmental studies had been done by a Grand Rapids firm, but failed to provide either the name of the firm or the reports. The Right Place CEO Randy Thelen could not provide the name of the Grand Rapids firm or a date for when the public can expect the report. When asked about when we could expect to see the reports, replied that “it will come in time.” Groundbreaking is scheduled for July.
An environmental impact study (EIS) is an intensive research study which is conducted by a third party in development settings to measure a wide range of things, so that stakeholders can review the impacts of the project before they agree to it. Materials used; water and air intake; water and air discharge; health and safety hazards; spillage plans; a survey of existing wildlife and ecologies; projected impacts of the development on local watersheds, aquifers, wildlife, air quality, light pollution, and so on–all of this is information we would expect to find in an EIS.
Permits are precisely that–permission granted by state regulatory agencies to do what developers say they’re going to do, which includes promises to go about things in certain ways. When developers violate the agreements made in these permits, they rarely risk closure–instead, they face fines, which are typically cut in half if they go uncontested. Fines for violating permits are notoriously cheaper than the cost of obtaining the permits themselves. More critically: permits do not entail anywhere near the scope of research contained in an EIS, as EISes are expensive, and such research is not budgeted for in the permitting process.
Environmental impact studies are typically in the initial documentation that’s provided to stakeholders–in this case, that includes the public, as we are both funding it as taxpayers and we are impacted as residents. That gives all stakeholders involved time to review the materials, run it past their own experts, and potentially request further studies or second opinions. With Gotion’s timeline of breaking ground in July, and no date yet for when we can expect to see an EIS, it’s clear that Gotion has no intention of allowing the public to properly review an EIS.
In early 2023, Big Rapids Township’s board requested more information from Gotion than Gotion wanted to provide.
Big Rapids Township board members (with the exception of Bill Stanek) wanted complete CFIUS reviews, information about city infrastructure uses such as wastewater and well intake. All of this information would be basic, and already provided, in a typical development like this.
Instead, Gotion made the Green Charter Township Board some type of offer, which included a $20M purchase agreement for Trustee Dale Jernstadt's property within the site. The Green Board unanimously passed a resolution to support Gotion with no poll or referendum to the public, with little notice, and with the vast majority of residents of both townships completely unaware of what was transpiring.
Meanwhile, The Right Place, which is the economic development corporation (EDC) quarterbacking Gotion to the Big Rapids community, openly admitted in March that there was no environmental impact study, and has yet to offer a date for when we as residential stakeholders can expect to review one.
Green Charter Township Chairman Jim Chapman testified before both Michigan’s House of Representative and Senate Appropriations Committees that over 90% of his residents are in support of Gotion, despite the fact that no resident polling had been conducted whatsoever. In fact: current citizen polling in Green Charter Township shows over 85% of residents are opposed to Gotion.
In early April, retired Congressman and Ambassador Pete Hoekstra and Ambassador Joseph Cella offered a bipartisan warning for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Gotion and Michigan officials for violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).
Senator Sarah Anthony, Chair of Michigan’s Senate Appropriations Committee, insists that Mecosta County residents do not “have the privilege of turning down good jobs,” despite the fact that Gotion’s latest projected wages would actually LOWER the current per capita standard of living.
"Project Elephant" is the codename initially given to the project by its corporate and state developers.
This deal is being done in bad faith, at every level.
Gotion, Inc. is a subsidiary of its Hefei, China-based parent company, Guoxuan High-Tech Company, Ltd., and whose holding company is the Nanjing China-based Nanjing Guoxuan Holding Group Company, Ltd. Gotion, Inc.’s Vice President is Chuck Thelen.
A private-public economic development corporation serving the greater Grand Rapids area, The Right Place partnered with the Mecosta County Economic Development Corporation to spearhead the Gotion project in Big Rapids. The Right Place’s CEO and President is Randy Thelen, cousins to Chuck Thelen.
The MEDC is the state of Michigan’s private-public economic development corporation, which has been spearheading megasite developments like these across the state. The funds approved and transferred by Michigan legislators for Gotion are in the MEDC’s keeping. Randy Thelen was recently appointed by Gov. Whitmer to MEDC’s Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) board.
EGLE is the regulatory agency responsible for providing the permits for Gotion. Thus far, they’ve done absolutely nothing to prompt Gotion or state officials to insist on basic environmental impact due diligence, which falls outside of the scope of permitting. EGLE’s Director’s Management Assistant is Mary Beth Thelen.
The Green Charter Township Board unanimously voted to approve a motion to support Gotion in early 2023 with no input from the community, and with most residents having no idea what was happening. Supervisor Jim Chapman testified before both Michigan House and Senate Appropriations Committees that over 90% of residents were in support of the project, when in fact no polling had been conducted. Trustee Dale Jernstadt has signed a purchase agreement with Gotion for $20M for his property within the Gotion site.
The Mecosta County Board of Commissioners approved a motion to support Gotion in October of 2022, led by Chair Bill Routley. Board trustee Jerilynn Strong has testified before legislators stating over 90% of her constituents are in support of the project, with no polling data to support her claims. Bill Routley is an elder at Trinity Fellowship Church in Big Rapids, where Big Rapids Township Supervisor Bill Stanek and Ferris State University President Bill Pink are also members.
With no notable projects until Gotion, Mecosta County’s local economic development corporation is spearheaded by The Right Place’s Mecosta County liaison, Kelly Wawsczyk. The board treasurer is Bill Stanek, who supported Gotion from his position as Supervisor of the Big Rapids Township board.
On March 15th, Michigan’s House Appropriations Committee heard no testimonies from residents, and asked no questions about the environmental impact of the project before approving $175M in taxpayer funding for the Chinese-owned EV battery plant.
On April 20th, Michigan’s Senate Appropriations Committee, led by Sen. Sarah Anthony, voted 10-9 to approve the transfer of $175M to the Gotion project, despite outrage from residents and bipartisan warnings of national security risks. Only three democrats voted against the bill: Senators Rosemary Bayer, Jeff Irwin, and Sylvia Santana.
(Door to door)
Mailed about 400
150 (81%) against;
28 (15%) for;
7 (4%) wanted more info.
Results of 320
79% Environmental concerns
69% China is a concern
196 returned by June 10th
12% Encourage 24
84% Fright against 166
3% Didn't make a choice 6
(Online, taken months before any concrete information was available)
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