BIG RAPIDS, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The China-linked Gotion battery plant project in Big Rapids that is being supported by Michigan taxpayer dollars, has been a bone of contention for many Michigan residents, politicians and environmental activists.
Included in that group of opponents are former ambassadors Peter Hoekstra and Joseph Cella who head up the Michigan-China Economic and Security Review Group and have been leaders in sounding the alarm on security issues relating to Gotion.
In the beginning of May, Gotion announced that it was delaying rezoning efforts and released a statement where they said, “As we continue to move forward with our project to invest $2.36 billion into the local region and create more than 2,000 jobs, Gotion has decided to temporarily delay an application to rezone a portion of property in Green Charter Township in order to focus entirely on getting this important project started. Those initial first steps include, among other things, learning the findings of the federal government’s important CFIUS review. Temporarily delaying the rezoning application also gives us the time needed to continue to communicate with the local community and answer the many questions that have been raised. We’re confident that when the facts are presented, we can effectively resolve these questions and show the tremendous benefit to the community.”
They went on to say, “Our decision will not affect our anticipated timetable, and Gotion will continue to work diligently with local residents, township and county officials, and other key stakeholders to ensure the project’s success. We’re excited to make Mecosta County our home.”
Because of this delay, on May 5th, Michigan News Source reported that the Mecosta County Planning Commission pushed back their rezoning vote on 11 additional parcels for the Gotion battery plant from agricultural to industrial. The rezoning request tied to those adjacent parcels are in addition to the main land where the company is constructing their plant.
Hoekstra and Cella released their own statement about the delay after being made aware of the Gotion announcement. The former ambassadors say, “This ‘temporarily delay’ is a false portrayal of the PRC-based and CCP-tied Gotion as being earnest about transparency and due diligence. For nearly two years they have operated in the shadows with the State of Michigan, the MEDC, The Right Place, and a host of others, and now they present themselves as conscientious and being a good community member? Their record is corrupted from head to tail. Governor Whitmer and Gotion continue to operate in a hushed and rushed fashion. The national security threat remains, our intelligence agencies warned state and local governments about it, and strongly advises against signing such deals.”
In the statement, the former ambassadors continue to say, “At the Michigan Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on 20 April, Gotion, Inc. representative, Chuck Thelen, referenced a ‘voluntary Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) filing’ they had submitted a month earlier for their proposed plant in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Thelen then referenced Gotion had submitted a ‘voluntary filing’ with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) on April 13.”
The statement goes on to say, “Thelen is likely referencing Gotion’s decision to file a short-form declaration mechanism with CFIUS which is an expedited 30 day-long process that would not subject Gotion to the strict scrutiny and due diligence of a full CFIUS Review which can be a much longer process, and upon approval of this truncated application, Gotion could also receive a safe harbor that protects the transaction from future challenges by CFIUS.”
The former ambassadors continue, “There is reason to believe Gotion is not providing the complete information about their parent company, Guoxuan High-Tech Company, Ltd., and its holding company, Nanjing Guoxuan Holding Company, Ltd., the names of all Gotion-related companies, all of their foreign national corporate executives, board members, dates of birth, passport numbers, and other information requested by CFIUS through standing and much more rigorous review requested by other parties.
Until grave concerns about this deal were raised, and calls for CFIUS Reviews made and filed, Gotion would have been perfectly fine continuing along unchecked without one, while there are several red flags with the Gotion project through standard CFIUS metrics. These are ranging from its CCP-tied executives and board members; proximity to military installations; being located in a state and county which houses the critical infrastructure of the largest underground gas storage infrastructure in the country; a local airport would expand to become a stipulated airport; and utilizing critical minerals and critical technology involving lithium ion battery manufacturing.”
The former ambassadors conclude their statement by saying, “If Gotion is truly interested in communicating with the local community and is willing to answer the many questions raised, they should begin by releasing the following items: the 5 year NDAs parties to the deal are subjected to; the NDA those they are soliciting to sell their property are required to sign along with the 100 page sales agreement; their entire filing they submitted to CFIUS; and answer whether Chuck Thelen has been operating as an unregistered foreign agent for several years. If they do not release any of these and answer this question, it will remain clear to concerned citizens of the community and Michigan, Gotion will continue to operate in the shadows and outside of accountability to the taxpayers.”
Michigan News Source reached out to Gotion North America Manufacturing vice president Chuck Thelen to see if he had a response to Hoekstra and Cella’s statements but he did not return our request for comment.