Whitmer to close deal with Ford, bring 2,500 battery jobs to Marshall

Phoebe Wall Howard
Detroit Free Press

Ford Motor Co. plans to create 2,500 battery plant jobs in Marshall as part of a multibillion-dollar factory investment, the Detroit Free Press has confirmed.

While the project will be a partnership between two companies, Ford will own the physical structures, run the operations and employ the workers; its partner is a global expert on battery design and technology, the Free Press confirmed Friday.

A number of media outlets have reported tidbits about the project but nothing is official yet. Details will be revealed Monday by the Dearborn automaker and state officials who negotiated the deal. Neither Ford, nor Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has discussed the project publicly. It is protocol for these announcements to be made by state and local economic development officials.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer greets guests before delivering her State of the State address on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing.

The city of Marshall, which lists on its website a 2021 population of 6,870 residents, sits 36 miles east of Kalamazoo and 108 miles west of Detroit.

What we know so far

  • Ford has said it wanted to build a lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery plant.
  • The company has been scouting sites throughout North America.
  • The estimated budget for the project is $3.5 billion.
  • The states of Virginia and Michigan have been among the finalists.
  • Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, criticized the project because it would include a Chinese technical partner and withdrew Virginia from consideration late in the process.
  • Ford is planning to partner with Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd (CATL), the world's largest battery company. While it is based in China, it is not a government-owned enterprise. The company has plants all over the world and supplies batteries to companies including Tesla and Honda.
  • This would not be a joint venture but, rather, a factory owned by Ford with CATL design and technology support.
  • The Chinese battery company holds IP (intellectual property) that's valuable to Ford.

More:Ford to build new plants in Tennessee, Kentucky in $11 billion investment in electric vehicles

"Virginia's loss is Michigan's gain," according to the source who has watched the process with Marshall come together. "This is a big get."

Details about potential government incentives were not available Saturday. Also, it is unknown whether the UAW will organize the site. Ford has said it will not impede labor union efforts at any of its battery plants.

Batteries technology shapes the future

"There's going to be future LFT battery plants in America and that's an important technology," the source close to the project told the Free Press, noting that everyone will benefit from domestic battery supplies including Ford's primary competitor Tesla.

Shipping batteries is a costly logistical challenge for all automakers. Being an early mover on battery plant production positions Ford to compete in a race to scale up electric vehicle production, which dramatically cuts costs.

A small city with big ambition

This Ford news comes just weeks after the governor of Virginia dragged the iconic automaker through harsh headlines, criticizing the project as a potential front for the Chinese Communist Party.

Rick Snyder, a Republican who served as Michigan's governor from 2011 through 2018, aggressively reached out to China and Chinese companies to bring jobs to the state during his eight economic development trips to China.

More:2 electric vehicle battery plants to be built in Michigan, promising nearly 4,500 jobs

More:GM to invest $650 million in lithium mining company in US

Meanwhile, Marshall is no stranger to the automotive industry.

Its top employers, according to the Marshall Area Economic Alliance, include:

  • Tenneco Inc., a global designer, manufacturer and distributor of clean air and ride performance products.
  • Eaton Corporation, a global technology leader in electrical systems for power quality, distribution and control.
  • Tribal Manufacturing, a machining and manufacturing company.

The community, developed by fur traders in the 1800s, is filled with hundreds of historic Greek Revival, Gothic Revival and Italiante homes and buildings, according to, operated by the Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance. Its 19th-century architecture has been recognized by the National Park Service.

Contact Phoebe Wall Howard: 313-618-1034 or Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid