It’s official — Ford plant going to Michigan
Youngkin passed on $3.5B project over Chinese involvement
Ford Motor Co. announced Monday that it will build an electric vehicle battery plant in Michigan, a $3.5 billion project that Virginia was considered for until Gov. Glenn Youngkin pulled the state out of it late last year.
Youngkin’s concern, he said in January, was over the involvement of China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. (CATL), which would operate the plant, and that he didn’t want Ford to serve as “a front for China” in Virginia. The plant would have been located in Pittsylvania County’s 3,528-acre Southern Virginia Mega Site at Berry Hill industrial site, which so far has no tenants.
Virginia and Michigan were the finalists for the plant, which will be 100% owned by the U.S. automaker. The Ford plant will be located about 100 miles west of Detroit at a 1,900-acre megasite in Marshall, Michigan. It is expected to create 2,500 jobs, with manufacturing beginning in 2026. During the announcement Monday, Ford executives said a Ford-owned subsidiary would own the plant and employ workers, with CATL providing technology and some equipment and staff.
Virginia Democrats decried Youngkin’s decision to block the plant from coming to Virginia as politically motivated and hypocritical, given his financial benefits from The Carlyle Group’s Chinese investments when Youngkin was co-CEO of the private equity company. Also, they criticized the governor for potentially depriving Southern Virginia of the 2,500 jobs the plant would have created.
“We all thought we were trying to achieve the same bipartisan goals of bringing good-paying jobs and economic development to Virginia, but apparently, in his absence last year, the governor missed that part of the transition briefing,” Loudoun County Del. David Reid, a Democrat, said on the House of Delegates’ floor Jan. 17. Reid was referring to Youngkin’s extensive 2022 domestic travel schedule, which many political onlookers saw as Youngkin testing the waters for a 2024 presidential run. “At this point, the governor needs to go to Southside, hold a town hall and explain why it is OK for him to make tens of millions of dollars off of investments in China and Chinese investments in the United States when he was in Carlyle Group, but he decided to play politics when it came to the livelihood for an entire region.”
Republicans, however, defended Youngkin’s decision as a responsible move for national security. “Bringing the right jobs to Danville … is critical,” said Del. Terry Kilgore, a Republican who serves on the state Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, which assists localities in Southern and Southwest Virginia in boosting economic development projects with funds from tobacco civil lawsuits settled decades ago. “But Bloomberg reported in December that Ford Motor Co. was planning to run this proposed electric vehicle plant through a conglomerate that coordinates closely with the Chinese Communist Party.”
During Youngkin’s time at Carlyle, the company invested in many Chinese businesses, including ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, and Adicon Holding Ltd., one of China’s largest independent clinical laboratory companies. In 2021, when he was running for governor, Youngkin had an estimated net worth of about $400 million, making him the wealthiest governor in the state’s history. Youngkin removed Virginia from consideration for the Ford plant in late December 2020, after a Bloomberg article outlined cooperation between Ford and CATL on the proposed plant, as well as CATL’s close ties to the Chinese government.
Potential Republican presidential candidates Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have also made moves against Chinese investments in their states, and some Democrats in Virginia said that Youngkin made his decision based on national ambitions of his own. The governor has neither confirmed nor denied rumors that he may run for president in 2024.
In Monday’s announcement, Ford said the plant will be built in Marshall, Michigan, where lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries will be manufactured as an alternative to nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) batteries, both of which can run electric vehicles. LFP batteries will be added to Ford’s electric vehicle lineup this year with the Mustang Mach-E and in 2024 with the F-150 Lightning.
Ford said it plans to invest more than $50 billion in electric vehicles globally through 2026, resulting in more than 18,000 direct jobs in Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Missouri.