Meet the Boomers Trying to Scupper 2,500 Jobs in Rural Michigan

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

meet the boomers trying to scupper 2 500 jobs in rural michigan

“We don’t need jobs,” said Fred Chapman, a 62-year-old toolmaker, when interviewed by Reuters about a new battery factory Ford wants to build near Marshall, Michigan. “I know what lithium is – it’s a very volatile element,” added Glenn Kowalske, a retired engineer who, according to LinkedIn, earned his degree in the 1970s.

At issue is the $3.5 billion BlueOval Battery Park Michigan, announced earlier this year as a part of Ford’s push in its EV ambitions. As a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dearborn giant, the facility has its initial production slated for 2026 with an estimated 2,500 employees out of the gate.

“I am also proud that we chose our home state of Michigan for this critical battery production hub,” said Bill Ford, Ford executive chair, citing the desire to diversify and localize the company’s battery supply chain – an issue that’s been under the microscope recently.

Not everyone in the Marshall area is happy with the plan, as evidenced by those two quotes above given to Reuters. How much of it is basic NIMBYism and how much of it is a shadowed objection to other subjects is unclear. Chapman doesn’t seem to have a large online presence but Kowalske is easy to find in media and on public sites such as LinkedIn. It is on that platform where comments tied to an account bearing his name have railed against Ford, suggesting the company “may not be around in the next decade.”

The same account has also blithered about “reverse discrimination” and “extreme support for minorities”.

Though it seems like the account is not entirely against development in nearby Battle Creek, about 20 minutes west of Marshall, showing support for “new brewery's [sic] and some more housing.” Maybe if Ford starts making a light lager, all will be forgiven.

But hey, at least whoever’s behind the account seems to admire Elon Musk.

To be sure, plans for huge factories like the one Ford is proposing are not without problems, and we’d be remiss not to point out that more than one neighborhood has been decimated in the name of so-called progress. Witness our parade of articles about the folks living near that Grand Cherokee plant who weathered terrible paint smells for some time before the problem was apparently fixed.

But to stand up in this (or any) economy and say “We don’t need jobs” is about as tone-deaf as they come – especially when espoused by a person like Chapman who spent his whole career in manufacturing. We’ll note here Reuters reports the man’s house sits across the street from Ford’s proposed site and he’s been approached about selling to developers but doesn’t want to move. Can’t blame a guy for wanting to keep his castle. Still, it’s one thing to rail against a plan but he must know that throwing those types of sound bites out there is a recipe for further quarrel.

Meanwhile, Marshall Mayor Jim Schwartz said “This investment in the local community will lead to an influx of new jobs to Marshall and economic development throughout the area. We are especially excited to support Ford’s conservation easement which will preserve Michigan’s natural beauty along the Kalamazoo River.” The latter is worth noting since Ford says they will reserve 245 acres at their site’s southern edge along the Kalamazoo River for the community and not permit industrial development there. Long-time readers know we are perpetually cynical at this site but at least ‘good neighbor’ overtures are being made.

This one’s worth keeping an eye on, readers. Stay tuned.

[Images: Ford, LinkedIn]

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3 of 25 comments
  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Jul 10, 2023

    Well, a plant with 2500 workers and the nearest town has less than 7,000 population. Marshall is near the intersection of two freeways, one east-west with Kalamazoo west and Ann Arbor east, and the other north-south, with Lansing north and Indiana south.

    There's a 30 mile to 60 mile drive from the population centers to the plant, so it's not hard to see what happens. Land in Marshall is built out, farmland is bought up and developed, and people move in, turning a quiet small town into a city dependent on one plant.

    What happens when the plant shuts down? Have you ever seen an urban area turned back into farmland? It doesn't happen - the city slowly dies. The small town atmosphere and rural surroundings are gone, with boarded up buildings everywhere. There are hundreds of examples all over the country.

    Why Marshall? The land is cheaper than the cities that have the workers and the infrastructure, and the locals can be steamrolled there, compared to the negotiation with mayors and councils and expense of building in/near the cities.

    Of COURSE the boomers are objecting. They've lived long enough to have seen it all unfold elsewhere, and picked Marshall as the out of the way retirement place to get away from the grit and grime of factory cities.

  • Bryan Karlan Bryan Karlan on Jul 11, 2023

    Yes it does Lou_BC. I can vent about liberals and liberals can vent about conservatives, when in a free speech environment, but isn’t it interesting that censorship, sorry “protecting us from misinformation” always shuts down the conservative viewpoint. I’m all for you being able to have your say as long as I’m allowed to have mine. What I’m sick of is the idiocy of the liberal viewpoint that has increasingly become, frankly, insane. Will you allow me to say that or will that be considered “misinformation”?

    • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Jul 12, 2023

      This is most certainly true, unfortunately.

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