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Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.

Half Of SOAR Fund Set Aside For 3 Projects

10/06/22 05:05 PM By Team MIRS

(Source: MIRS.news, Published 10/05/2022) (GRAND RAPIDS) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was joined by a host of CEOs, bureaucratic leaders, education leaders, politicians, and media to sign a proclamation about how half of the $846 million Strategic Outreach Attraction Reserve (SOAR) was tied Wednesday to three specific projects -- two involving battery production and a large wastewater pipeline.


Whitmer's proclamation came after the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) Board voted earlier in the day to allocate the money less than 24 hours after the Governor signed the legislation that moved the money from the $7 billion sitting on the state's balance sheet to SOAR, a fund developed to spur large-scale economic development projects.


Cameras with the Grand Rapids network television, Michigan Radio, Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, MLive and a student reporter from the Ferris State Torch joined Ferris State University President Bill Pink, Consumers Energy CEO Garrick Rochow, Mecosta County Administrator Paul Bullock, The Right Place Vice President of Business Attraction Brent Case, Rep. Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) and Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO Quentin Messer Jr. at the Woodbridge N. Ferris Building for an announcement about the $435 million in SOAR funding being OKed.


“Today, we’re bringing home over $4.1 billion in investments to Michigan, creating more than 4,600 jobs across Big Rapids, Van Buren Township, and Ottawa and Muskegon counties,” Whitmer said. “This is yet another historic day for Michigan this year as we continue to secure generational opportunities in our manufacturing and engineering workforce, grow a sustainable economy, and make critical infrastructure improvements to support the robust agriculture industry.”


The board first approved $125 million in SOAR funds for a Chinese-based battery company building a factory in Big Rapids. The board also approved a Designated Renaissance Zone worth an estimated $540 million and a $50 million Strategic Site Readiness Program performance-based grant through SOAR funds, which would be given by The Right Place to help with infrastructure improvements.


“Gotion’s $2.36 billion investment creating 2,350 good-paying jobs in Big Rapids is the biggest-ever economic development project in Northern Michigan and will shore up our status as the global hub of mobility and electrification,” Whitmer said.


Rochow announced that Consumers Energy would be working with Gotion, as well.


“We are thrilled -- truly thrilled -- to partner with Gotion on their commitment that 100% renewable energy provide power to their facility,” he said.


Messer said he was excited to see Gotion create the facility in Big Rapids and thanked the Gotion Vice President of North American Operations Chuck THELEN, who was on hand for Whitmer's proclamation signing.


Michigan beat out Texas, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Illinois and Ohio as possible sites for the new facility.


“Team Michigan continues to out-hustle and out-compete to ensure every global company considering their future expansion opportunities can see their future here in our state, just like Gotion does,” Messer said.


The MSF board held a special meeting today to approve the funding for the project and for a Southeast Michigan battery project being instigated by Our Next Energy, a Novi-based company.


Our Next Energy was awarded a $200 million Critical Industry Program performance-based grant through SOAR funds, a $15 million Michigan Investment Fund loan and State Essential Services Assessment Exemption worth about $21.6 million for its first battery factory.


“Our Next Energy's $1.6 billion investment creating 2,112 jobs in Van Buren Township will build on our economic momentum and secure the future of mobility and electrification right here in Michigan,” Whitmer said. “This innovative, Michigan-made company is on the cutting-edge of battery technology, and the work they are doing will increase the range of electric vehicles to over 600 miles on a single charge."


The battery company is partnering with Ashley Capital to build a nearly 700,000 square-foot facility. The company will use raw North American supplies to refine in-house and is expected to create 20 gigawatts per hour energy storage devices within five years. Our Next Energy is expected to also use materials from recycled sources for some products to minimize environmental impact.


The company is working with DTE Energy.


Finally, the MSF board approved $60 million of SOAR funds to an agricultural infrastructure project in Muskegon and Ottawa counties.


The project will create a wastewater pipeline to allow Coopersville to ship wastewater to the Muskegon County Resource Recovery Center. 


“These critical infrastructure upgrades will generate $187 million in investment supporting 145 jobs in West Michigan’s food and agriculture industry and lay the groundwork for strong future growth.” Whitmer said. “Building the new wastewater line will connect employers like Fairlife, Continental Dairy, DeVries Meats, Applegate Dairy, and Swanson Pickle to the resources and services they need to grow and expand their businesses.”


Some people could wonder how the Legislature and Whitmer could collaborate so easily on business investment, but fail to deliver any tax relief despite the continuing inflation across the nation.


She told The Detroit News that she remains committed to tax breaks and is sticking to $500 relief checks, earned income tax credits and retirement tax cuts.


“I’m hopeful someone in the Legislature will come back to the table and want to have that conversation, but we can’t not move forward on opportunities like this when we have massive investment that can change a community's quality of life and create good job opportunities for Michiganders,” Whitmer said.


Whitmer, Messer and Lasinski said there are no immediate plans to make another big deposit into the SOAR fund, but the Governor said it is something that should be looked at as a permanent long-term strategy that allows the state to compete for large investment business projects.


“We are ensuring that every community has an opportunity and I think we’re going to have to have a continued conversation, but I can tell you right now – as you may have heard - there is an election coming up soon and I don’t think the Legislature is going to be in town much between now and then," Whitmer said.