Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is taking flak after Ford Motor Co., which has been headquartered in her state for decades, announced recently it would open electric vehicle and battery-making plants in Tennessee and Kentucky because her state did not meet the automaker’s criteria for both of the new manufacturing facilities.
In response to Ford’s decision, U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) told Fox Business Network this week that it “leaves a lot of questions,” especially regarding Whitmer.
“Why was the governor not aware of Ford’s desires to expand and build an EV plant that would provide, as we see right now, over [11,000] jobs?” Walberg said. “How did this happen under Gov. Whitmer’s watch, especially in a time when Michigan, because of lockdowns … has been challenged economically, and we need to encourage people to stay in the state, to come to the state and expand in the state?”
In a tweet last month, Ford’s CEO, Jim Farley, referenced “unique sites” in the other states “that were large, shovel ready with many other advantages.”
We love Michigan & have invested +$7B in Michigan since 2016. In this case, KY & TN had unique sites that were large, shovel ready with many other advantages. If a MI site had met our criteria, we know the state & DTE would have worked extremely hard to make a competitive bid. https://t.co/OLdjrY3ZEN
— Jim Farley (@jimfarley98) September 29, 2021
“If a MI site had met our criteria, we know the state & DTE would have worked extremely hard to make a competitive bid,” he added.
But Walberg maintained that as governor, Whitmer should have known about or anticipated concerns regarding the cost of energy and electricity in Michigan. He went on to suggest there could have been a way of working out an agreement with electric and energy providers advantageous to Ford, which has its headquarters in Dearborn.
“Why, for some reason, they were unwilling to even contact the governor or her economic development team, I think that leaves a lot of questions,” Walberg said. “I can’t answer them yet, but I hope we find the answers because it shouldn’t have happened.”
Last month, Whitmer indicated that the automaker did not give her state a “real opportunity” to compete for the new campuses, telling the Detroit News, “In terms of us having tools that we need to be competitive, I’m always looking to make Michigan more competitive.
“And (I’m) always eager to put solutions on the table. But we needed a real opportunity to do that. And that really wasn’t the case here,” she said.
But Walberg countered that there “certainly are means why which (the state) could have the land space made available” and “given economic development tools to Ford.”
“I can’t conceive that we wouldn’t,” he continued, adding that it is “frustrating” because Whitmer vetoed a number of pro-business bills passed by the state legislature over this past summer.
“I think that, at the very least, Ford looked at it and said, ‘You know, it’s probably a little longer period of time for the state of Michigan and its governmental leadership to get their act together, so we’re going to go where there’s a better opportunity right now,'” Walberg said.
The GOP lawmaker also cited Whitmer’s demand that all government construction contracts include prevailing wages while further explaining that the auto giant may have had additional concerns about that provision increasing costs without adding any benefits in terms of improved quality.
“That’s another issue that I think possibly in the mindset of Ford, they say, ‘We don’t know what this governor will do. We don’t trust that she will be in our corner to assist us and so we’re just going to look another way,'” he said.
Meanwhile, a Whitmer spokesperson told Fox Business that Ford recently announced plans to add about $250 million in spending in Michigan as well as some 450 jobs at manufacturing plants in the state.
“These ongoing investments build on Ford’s continued commitment to electrifying the future of mobility in Michigan with the Ford Ion Park announced in Romulus this past July, and its transformation of the historic Michigan Central Station into an innovation hub for the company’s future of transportation,” Otie McKinley, a spokesperson for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation & Travel Michigan, said.
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