by Scott McClallen
In a video posted on YouTube, Ferris State University President Bill Pink says the university hasn’t discussed housing Chinese nationalists to work at the nearby electric vehicle battery plant.
Pink posted the video on March 23 to dispel rumors surrounding the planned Gotion electric vehicle battery plant. Last week, The Center Square reported that the company – with $1.14 billion of state and local backing – must adhere to communist rules.
“As president of this university, I can tell you that no one from that company has had a conversation with me asking Ferris State University to house anyone on this campus,” Pink said.
FSU stands to gain more jobs for students, graduates, and possibly taxpayer funding for a new EV center through a grant, according to a memo.
According to FSU’s website, Pink serves as board vice-chair for The Right Place, which facilities economic development deals, including the Gotion plant. FSU might back the Gotion plant because it could drive additional grants for the university.
An FSU memo said a Michigan Economic Development Corporation grant targets shifting Michigan’s workforce from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. The memo said the first-year award would total $659,500.
The memo said the grant would fund a battery production and testing center at FSU.
“First, the center will curate a clearinghouse of expertise to develop the battery production and testing workforce within West Michigan,” the memo said. “We will share this curriculum with partnering community colleges and sister universities. The center will also focus on applied research areas essential to the safe production of lithium batteries, a key technology for the future of the automotive industry.”
The controversy follows after Gotion doubled down on its facility near Green Charter Township after Big Rapids township requested a federal investigation about national security risks tied to the plant.
Gotion is owned by Gotion High-Tech, which is owned by Volkswagen and Nanjing Gotion Holding Group Co., Ltd, among other partners.
Joseph Cella, director Michigan-China Economic and Security Review Group, told lawmakers on March 15 that Gotion’s parent company is headquartered in the People’s Republic of China and that its proposed plant would be close to a Michigan National Guard armory.
Cella said in testimony that the Chinese Communist Party controls Gotion.
“The PRC and the CCP are penetrating our shores on a sub-national level and beyond the eyes of the United States Government. This is manifested through industry, higher education and whenever economic engagement occurs, there is great peril to our national security and our state security…. The reports and threats of espionage, intelligence gathering and influence operations by the PRC against the United States government, military, higher education and private sector, have soared in the last 15 years.”
Cella continued to say that taxpayer money shouldn’t fund a company tied to the CCP. Many local and state officials involved in the program are bound by nondisclosure agreements.
“It is dangerous some of the parties involved with these projects have paid more attention to binding five-year non-disclosure agreements and code words, rather than gaining an understanding of how such companies present threats to the United States and Michigan, and taking a long, clear eyed and prudent look at the threat, before financially supporting such projects which are inextricably tied to the PRC and the CCP,” Cella said in a letter. “As stewards of taxpayer dollars and good corporate citizens, those involved with the projects should be conducting strict scrutiny and due diligence.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org.
Photo “Bill Pink” by FerrisStateVideo.