Given that President Biden hailed Ford as one of America’s exemplary companies in his State of the Union address last year and the entrenched media promotes Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as a worthy presidential candidate, the controversial relationship between Blue Oval and “Big Gretch” is of national interest, particularly when China factors heavily into the equation. A recent Ford announcement and more disclosures about China’s planned electric battery plants in the Great Lakes state serve as warnings of the economic and national security dangers if Whitmer ever occupied the White House.

I’ve written considerably about the electric battery plant Ford plans to build on fertile farmland in the historic town of Marshall utilizing technology that it will license from a China-based company alleged to use forced labor of Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority group. Whitmer awarded Ford $1.7 billion in government tax subsidies and other goodies to build the $3.5 billion plant, which the company claims will generate 2,500 jobs paying on average $45,136 a year. The subsidies amount to $680,000 per job.

Ford’s Michigan subsidies are more than double it received from Tennessee, where the company has committed to spending $6 billion to create 6,000 jobs. Ford also was eyeing Virginia to build its battery plant, but Gov. Glenn Younkin told Ford to take a hike, alleging that it’s a sham China deal to allow Ford’s electric vehicles to qualify for lucrative tax subsidies. The entrenched media said Younkin was only posturing because he might seek the Republican presidential nomination, and Virginia’s House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore is on record as saying the Commonwealth would never have agreed to Michigan’s sweetheart terms.

This announcement from Ford last week made clear just how over-the-top outrageous Whitmer’s battery plant incentives are and how little regard Ford has for its home state.

Ford Motor Company Fund, the automaker’s philanthropic arm, said it was partnering with Ford dealers across four U.S. regions to provide $1 million in scholarship funding to help “financially struggling” students pursue careers as automotive technicians.

“As we move toward an electrified future, these career opportunities are exciting and require skilled technicians who are proficient in STEM-related study,” said Elena Ford, Chief Customer Experience Officer. “Working together with the Ford Fund and our dealers to offer this scholarship program means we will welcome a new generation of diverse students to the industry, and hopefully into our Ford family, to help us better serve our customers.”

Yep, Elena Ford is part of the family that controls the company bearing her name, the first female family member to hold a leadership position. As the executive overseeing customer experience, one must imagine she’s awfully busy given Ford’s 67 recalls last year and 2023 shaping up as another banner year.

Ford’s scholarship initiative, while worthy, is hardly altruistic and parsimonious given the billions Ford sponges off U.S., Michigan, Tennessee, and other taxpayers.

There is a nationwide shortage of automotive technicians that’s likely to worsen as a swath of experienced baby boomer mechanics retire. Despite annual demand for 258,000 new technicians, there are only 48,000 graduates from technician programs each year nationwide, according to the TechForce Foundation.

Elena Ford/Ford photo

Ford said it will dole out scholarships valued at $5,000, or 200 in total, so the charity won’t even make a dent in alleviating the nationwide mechanic shortage. But it will possibly result in meaningful and even lucrative employment for 200 individuals who are enrolled in community colleges or other post-secondary institutions.

The Detroit Free Press reported that auto mechanic jobs average $44,245 nationally (higher in Texas) and can reach six-figures for master technicians. However, the publication found Detroit-area listings for mechanics ranging from $60,000 to $120,000, depending on experience.

For a mere $5,000 investment, Ford can foster employment for an individual who can earn between $44,245 and $120,000 a year. Michigan’s Whitmer is spending $680,000 to create a job averaging only $45,136 a year.

I thought I was mathematically challenged!

Instead of wasting $1.7 billion in taxpayer funds on Ford’s electric battery plant in rural Marshall, Whitmer could build the Harvard School of Auto Mechanics in the historic town and still have plenty of money to spare to fund other meaningful and necessary educational projects.

Given the largesse Whitmer has showered on Ford, one might expect that the automaker would throw its home state a bone or two, especially given the company’s plans to fire thousands of Michigan-based salaried employees. That’s not the case. Ford’s scholarships are only available to students living in the Greater Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Phoenix areas.

Presumably those cities were chosen because area Ford dealers chose to participate, but it’s likely Michigan dealers would have difficulty finding students who would qualify for the scholarships. That’s because Michigan’s educational system is among the nation’s worst, which possibly explains why the state’s proportion of high school graduates enrolling in community colleges fell more than three times faster from 2018 to 2021 than the proportion going to four-year universities.

Only one out of 20 students in the Detroit Public Schools Community District scored at a “proficient” level on the eighth grade National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test, Michigan Capital Confidential recently reported. Forty states performed better than Michigan on the fourth grade reading test in 2022. Fewer than three out of ten students scored “at or above proficient.” Only three states scored “significantly lower than Michigan.”

Many Michigan students lack the reading proficiency and problem-solving skills to complete community college programs, which have notorious poor graduation rates to begin with. The problem will likely persist given that Whitmer recently signed a bill that requires schools to advance third grade students even if they can’t pass the state’s minimum reading proficiency metrics.

With regards to Ford’s electric battery plant, Christopher Smith, Ford’s chief government affairs officer, told the Michigan House Appropriations Committee that “the government of China has no role in the project, and no tax dollars will go to the company licensing us the technology.”

Chris Smith/Ford photo

According to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, Ford will pay Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited (CATL), the Chinese battery manufacturer whose technology it is licensing, a 12% royalty on sales. Given that Michigan taxpayers are directly subsidizing the plant and it will enable buyers of Ford’s electric vehicles to qualify for significant tax breaks, Smith was disingenuous claiming that CATL isn’t a beneficiary of Ford’s government handouts.

Ford’s CATL partnership isn’t China’s only Michigan battery project. China-based Gotion High Tech also plans to build an electric battery plant in the state, which has awarded the project a $715 million incentive package, including a 30-year tax break valued at $540 million and two grants totaling $175 million.

Unlike Ford’s CATL battery plant, which will be built on farmland, Gotion’s lithium battery plant will be built on land that was zoned industrial 20 years ago. Still, area residents overwhelmingly oppose the plant, so much so that a planned public hearing this week was moved online to avoid expected protests.

The Midwesterner website reported that Gotion’s corporate bylaws require loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. This claim was mentioned by U.S. Rep.John Moolenaar, R-Midland, in an op-ed published by the Detroit News. Moolenaar represents the area where Gotion plans to build its plant and he opposes it.

As well, former U.S. Ambassadors Pete Hoekstra and Joseph Cella, both from Michigan, urged a federal review “for the sake of the security of Michigan and our national security.” Hoekstra and Cella are Republicans and “The Midwesterner” is deemed a “conservative” website, so the entrenched media discounts their concerns. Also opposing the deal is Tudor Dixon, the Trump endorsed gubernatorial candidate who Whitmer trounced in last year’s election. Tudor recently appeared on Tucker Carlson, which I’ve linked to.

Defenders of China’s Michigan battery deals say those who oppose them are paranoid and driven by racism. Among the paranoid are FBI director Christopher Wray, who last year warned “the Chinese government’s disregard for global leadership norms, ruthless hunger for economic superiority, and desire to influence American politics make it a threat to U.S. national security.”

Wray said the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) aims to win American leaders’ loyalty through money or intimidation and “to undermine our democratic process” by influencing elected officials. He warned the CCP is patient, aiming to recruit early-career politicians—often at the state and local level—who will be called on to do Beijing’s bidding as their power and influence grows.

Opponents of Ford’s Marshall plant have expressed concerns about their local elected leaders, alleging that several of them signed non disclosure agreements. The Marshall region was majority Republican in the last election and plant opposition doesn’t appear to be along party lines.

Neither Ford nor Gotion has offered details about what, if any, measures they will take to ensure their plants don’t harm neighborhood environments. Consider the environmental measures that Finland follows for electric battery plants built in that country.

Finland is regarded as one of Europe’s most environmentally conscious countries, as well as the world’s happiest. The positive outlook might have to do with the country’s unwillingness to tolerate ineffective leadership and poor judgment. Finland’s 37-year-old prime Minister, Sanna Martin, was recently voted out of office amid allegations she spent too much time partying.

Whitmer’s judgment certainly seems questionable, particularly embracing China-based companies without much investigation. Fortunately, the Gotion project is already undergoing a review from the Committee on Foreign Investment, which is responsible for assessing national security risks. Ford’s Michigan battery plant is also facing bipartisan opposition.

“I’ll be damned if I’m going to give them $900 out of $7,500, to let it go to China for basically a product we started,” Manchin told an energy conference. “You’re telling me we don’t have the smart people and the technology, and we can’t get up to speed quick enough? That doesn’t make sense.”

It does to “That Woman from Michigan” and her growing legion of entrenched media cheerleaders. For now, Ford and China are enjoying a good laugh at the expense of Michigan residents and taxpayers.

Ford CEO Jim Farley and Whitmer understandably aren’t concerned about the longterm impact of their sweetheart deal. Farley’s family lives in the UK and Whitmer has her sights on Washington. They’ll both be long gone from Michigan in a few years, if not sooner.

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