Ready for the shovel? State seeks money for site preparation after Ford factories head south
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration, economic developers and industry groups are pushing for the creation of a $ 100 million industrial development fund on large tracts of land after Tennessee and Kentucky land 11, $ 4 billion in investments from Ford Motor Co. and a battery maker.
The $ 100 million would go to Michigan Economic Development Corp. a sum of money to assemble land and pay for planning, engineering, traffic studies as well as infrastructure and utility improvements to prepare the so-called megasites.
Executives from DTE Energy Co. (NYSE: DTE) and Consumers Energy Co. (NYSE: CMS) told Crain’s that the two utilities are in talks with officials at MEDC on how to better coordinate marketing. direct from large-scale industrial sites, especially for the future. battery plant projects that require a high volume of electricity.
“There are discussions at the state level to make funding available to prepare the sites for the future and at DTE we support this 100%,” said Jerry Norcia, CEO of DTE Energy, during a telephone interview. “If the governor and the legislature want to create funding sources to make the sites available, I think that would be a huge opportunity.”
The proposed fund was already part of Whitmer’s vast MI New Economy initiative before Ford shocked the governor’s office, lawmakers and vendors like DTE by deciding to build two gigantic campuses of electric vehicle and battery factories on high ground. large sites already prepared for rapid development in western Tennessee and central Kentucky.
The two southern states have reportedly spent millions of dollars preparing a 3,600-acre site an hour northeast of Memphis and a 1,500-acre site south of Louisville, Ky., For the rapid construction of large industrial facilities.
Michigan economic planners acknowledged last week that Ford’s home state has almost no similar sites ready to go to automakers looking to make a big bet on vehicle electrification.
“We don’t have 2,000-acre sites,” said Maureen Donohue Krauss, CEO of the Detroit Regional Partnership, the 11-county economic development organization.
Although it has large tracts of farmland along the interstate highways that connect to international crossings at Port Huron and Detroit, the state has not taken a political initiative to purchase the development rights of contiguous tracts of land that can be marketed for new vehicle or battery assembly plants, said John Walsh, CEO of the Michigan Manufacturers Association.
“We didn’t focus much on that,” said Walsh, former GOP state lawmaker and former GOP budget manager Rick Snyder. “There are regional efforts, there are local efforts, but not even on a half scale of what they did in Kentucky and Tennessee.”
While acknowledging that Ford’s decision to let its country of origin pass may have been “site specific”, Whitmer said Ford has not given Michigan a “real opportunity” to bid on one or both projects.
Ford spokesman Martin Günsberg said the Dearborn-based automaker’s site selection factors included the amount of land needed near highways and railroads that was “ready to shovel.”
“Michigan didn’t have the type of sites needed for this project, so they weren’t part of the formal bidding process,” Günsberg told Crain’s.
Whitmer’s new MEDC chief Quentin Messer Jr. has tried to play down Michigan’s inability to compete for the 11,000 new jobs Ford and SK Innovation plan to create between the two southern states.
“Of course, we would love to have all of Ford’s investments in Michigan, but this is just an announcement,” Messer told reporters. “Ford remains a vital part of the Michigan business community.”