Over vocal opposition, Manteno board clears way for $2 billion Chinese-owned EV battery plant

The Manteno Village Board has approved a zoning change that paves the way for a $2 billion Chinese-owned electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant. The announcement comes after Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker championed the project and secured $536 million in state incentives to lure the company, Gotion, to build the plant in Manteno, a town of about 9,000 people located approximately 40 miles south of Chicago.

The plant, which has the potential to create about 2,600 jobs, aligns with Pritzker’s goal of making Illinois a hub for electric vehicle manufacturing. However, the project has been met with controversy and criticism, with some residents expressing concerns about environmental hazards, fire safety, and the influence of Chinese ownership.

The village board’s vote, which took place during a contentious meeting, saw a 5-1 decision in favor of the zoning change. The meeting was attended by approximately 170 people, many of whom demonstrated opposition to the project.

While supporters believe the project will generate revenue and create job opportunities, critics have pointed to the Chinese ownership of Gotion and raised fears about potential communist influence. The corporate bylaws of Gotion’s parent company (Gotion High-Tech of China) requiring “Party activities in accordance with the Constitution” of the Chinese Communist Party have also added to the controversy.

Historically, the controversy in Manteno mirrors a similar situation that unfolded following Gotion’s plans for another electric vehicle battery plant in Big Rapids, Michigan. This project has garnered national political attention, with GOP presidential contender Vivek Ramaswamy attending a rally in opposition.

Additionally, state lawmakers from the Illinois House Freedom Caucus have been vocal about the project’s Chinese connection. The administration has sought to allay concerns about the plant’s environmental impact and potential for fires by addressing hazardous materials training for firefighters and making changes to safety policies.

The lone vote against the zoning change came from board member Samuel Martin, with Manteno Mayor Timothy Nugent acknowledging the project’s polarizing nature within the community.

Following the board’s decision, Gotion will proceed with the village’s permitting process for the project site. Pritzker has expressed support for the board’s action, emphasizing the importance of working with the village to meet clean energy goals and expand the state’s manufacturing footprint.

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