by Bruce Walker
Green Township trustee Dale Jernstadt could recognize a tidy personal profit if Gotion Inc. moves forward with building a portion of its controversial battery manufacturing plant on land he owns.
Mecosta County property records show Jernstadt took out a $180,000 mortgage on the 72-acre parcel in 2012. In September 2021, he sold the development rights for the property to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development through December 2027. As a result, he must receive a waiver to sell the property for any use other than agricultural.
Gotion announced plans to build its North American electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant operations on 408 acres in Green Township and another 115.33 acres in adjacent Big Rapids Township last October. Gotion scuttled plans for the Big Rapids Township site after township officials questioned how much influence the Chinese Communist Party exerted over the company.
The Midwesterner News first reported Jernstadt’s potential conflict of interest.
Gotion intends to build six buildings with a combined 3 million square feet to produce cathode and anode components for use in EV batteries.
Dubbed “Project Elephant,” the proposed plant could employ an estimated 2,350 workers. State and local incentives for Project Elephant are valued at an estimated $1.14 billion, including a 30-year tax abatement and $715 million from the Michigan Strategic Fund.
The Michigan Senate is voting this week on whether to approve the money from the strategic fund. U.S. ambassadors Pete Hoekstra, a former U.S. representative from Michigan, and Joseph Cella have urged lawmakers to vote against the appropriation.
“Multiple grave national security threats and possible breaches of federal law, are casting a dark cloud over the Gotion project,” Cella and Hoekstra wrote in a news release on Tuesday. “Michigan senators on a bipartisan basis should delay a vote until it is determined these grave threats can be resolved and vote no if for whatever reason a vote advances. If they do otherwise, they will be harming our national security and the security of the state of Michigan.”
Testifying before Michigan Senate Appropriations Committee last month, Vice President of North American Manufacturing Chuck Thelen said Gotion, “is a publicly held company through two major locations in Switzerland and China so the ownership is the public.”
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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.
Photo “Gotion Inc. Building” by Gotion Inc.