Despite Opposition, Small Illinois Town Approves Large Chinese EV Battery Factory
The small town of Manteno, Illinois, with a population of just 9,000, has given the go-ahead for the construction of a $2 billion Chinese-owned electric vehicle (EV) battery factory. The decision, despite protests from local residents, has become a point of contention in a town deeply divided on the issue.
The village board in Manteno approved a zoning change, paving the way for the construction of the Gotion Inc. manufacturing plant. Gotion, a California-based subsidiary of Gotion High-Tech in China, has been operating in the U.S. for almost a decade, with 30% ownership by Volkswagen. Disturbingly, the company “pledges allegiance” to the Chinese Communist Party. The plant is expected to bring in $536 million in state incentives, creating 2,600 local jobs and aligning with Governor J.B. Pritzker’s goal to position Illinois as a hub for electric vehicles.
The proposed factory will be built on a 150-acre site currently occupied by an abandoned Kmart warehouse distribution center near Interstate Highway 57. The decision faced opposition from dozens of locals who gathered to protest the project, expressing concerns about potential Chinese influence in their community. The issue was put to a vote, and the village board of trustees voted 5-1 in favor of the factory.
While some residents fear the implications of foreign involvement, others see the potential economic benefits and job creation as a positive development. Manteno Mayor Timothy Nugent acknowledged the division within the town, emphasizing that diverse views exist on all sides.
Patrick Young, president of the Kankakee and Iroquois Building Trades, sees the factory as a means to generate revenue and revive manufacturing in Kankakee County. He believes the project is a good start and an opportunity to bring back manufacturing jobs.
Despite the approval, the town’s residents remain divided, echoing a similar situation in Michigan where town leaders faced a recall election over plans for a Chinese-owned EV battery plant. Green Charter Township’s board members were ousted after supporting proposals by Gotion for a $2.4 billion EV battery plant, sparking a grassroots backlash over national security and environmental concerns.
While Gotion considers the Michigan project a “done deal,” the new leaders in Green Charter Township assert that the company can be stopped. Residents raised concerns about national security ties to the Chinese Communist Party and the project’s proximity to a U.S. military camp where the Michigan National Guard has been training troops from Taiwan.
As the controversy unfolds, it adds to the broader debate about China‘s involvement in critical industries and the challenges of balancing economic interests with concerns about national security and environmental impact.