BIG RAPIDS, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The Big Rapids community and others interested in the China-linked Gotion EV battery plant have been invited to participate in an upcoming virtual town hall meeting hosted by Chuck Thelen, Vice President of Gotion Inc. – North American Manufacturing.

Scheduled for Monday, April 8th, at 6 p.m., this event, named “Chat with Chuck,” aims to provide the community with an overview of the proposed battery components facility in Green Charter Township and to address any inquiries the community may have. This initiative follows a similar virtual panel discussion held by Thelen and other officials last year.

Chats with Chuck reported to offer information and engagement with community.

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The virtual town hall meeting will be accessible through a provided link. These “Chat with Chuck” events will become a regular monthly feature, offering attendees updates on project milestones, insights from Gotion Inc. experts, community guests, and opportunities for community engagement according to a statement released by Gotion Inc.

“A virtual town hall meeting is a convenient, easily accessible, way people can get their questions answered about the facility and learn more about the ongoing progress of our project, said Thelen. “I’m looking forward to talking with people. The meetings also will be an effective way to reduce misinformation that continues to be spread about the facility.”

Community members have asked for transparency and information about the EV battery plant since the announcement went public.

Since news of the Gotion plant went public, community members in Green Charter Township and the Big Rapids community have been voicing their concerns about many things including the plant’s environmental impact, water usage and the company’s ties to China. Community members have also relayed worries about being kept in the dark about the project for so long and not getting prompt answers to their questions.

Thelen said about the upcoming chats, “People in the region deserve to have access to as much information as possible, and Gotion Inc. will continue to be transparent and open about our efforts. A virtual town hall meeting is a great way to allow people to participate in the comfort of their own homes.”

Skeptics don’t believe “chats” will offer much to the public.

However, not everyone thinks that transparency and relevant information is going to be offered in these chats. Michigan News Source reached out to former ambassadors Joseph Cella and Pete Hoekstra who founded the Michigan China Economic and Security Review Group, about these chats. They released the following statement: “Hard working taxpayers of Michigan do not trust Gotion and its agents, and whatever comes out of these meetings will not be believed.”

Cella and Hoekstra said in their statement, “For several years, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and the Right Place have shrouded the ‘deal’ with the PRC-based and CCP-tied Gotion with binding and punitive NDAs, a silly secret code name, alienating citizens from across the political spectrum.”

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The statement continued, “Lonnie Scott, executive director of the liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan said of the Gotion NDAs: ‘They should be seen as a major red flag for working people across this state who care about accountable government. Michigan needs more transparency, not less. If our lawmakers can’t bring in jobs without shady backroom deals that have to be shielded from the public, then are these deals even good for our state?’”

Cella and Hoekstra told Michigan News Source, “Government and business elites have worked fast and in secret refusing to answer basic questions from citizens and fellow elected officials, and now they are scheduling town hall meetings to ‘be transparent’? This is too little too late, and is fake transparency that will only further the misinformation and disinformation Gotion continues to peddle about this corrupted ‘deal’.”

The statement concludes with, “Gotion is further alienating itself from citizens by clear cutting a forest and backfilling on wetland-rich property without the requisite permit from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), and has filed a questionable federal lawsuit to get the answer they are demanding from Green Charter Township, with another being threatened. Those campaigning for this “deal” have burnt all bridges of trust and relationships with citizens.”

Too little, too late?

Marjorie Steele founder of EDRA (Economic Development Responsibility Alliance) has also commented on the chats, saying to Michigan News Source, “This charade of community engagement is an insulting and desperate attempt to distract the public from the reality that Gotion’s VP Chuck Thelen has lied – and continues to lie – about the types of materials Gotion intends to use and the dangers they would impose upon our watersheds.”

Steele continued to say, “And, more importantly: to distract us from the fact that the most basic of environmental due diligence has not been performed. Gotion has yet to provide to the public, or to county, city, and township leaders, any environmental studies other than the October 2022 Barr wetlands delineations, which does not meet the minimum requirements for a basic environmental assessment – let alone an environmental impact study (which is, again, required by law).”

Steele added, “Mr. Thelen wants to hold court in a well controlled environment so that he can continue to attempt to convince residents that permit applications are impact studies, that synthetic graphite is number two pencil lead, and that destroying 60 acres of wetlands with a handshake promise to ‘relocate’ them is protecting the wetlands. Given Gotion’s history of working with the community, the likelihood of Mr. Thelen hosting any guests with actual environmental or economic expertise – let alone impartial third parties – is slim to none.”