Residents of Green Charter Township in Mecosta County are scratching their heads in bewilderment at a letter they received previously this week.

Addressed to “Dear Neighbor,” the letter is on Gotion Inc. letterhead and claims it aims to dispel “misinformation and malicious lies” it says are being spread by “extremists” and “tabloids” spreading “hatred and prejudice.” The letter concludes “Sincerely, Gotion Inc.” rather than the signature of Gotion Inc. Vice President of North American Manufacturing Chuck Thelen who has been the mouthpiece for the proposed electric-vehicle battery component plant in GCP.

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The letter opened by claiming, “First off, we’re not going to ask you for money.” The project has been granted $715 million in taxpayer cash and tax breaks by the Gretchen Whitmer administration.

Local opposition to the proposed plant has gained significant statewide and even national support in recent months due in part to environmental concerns and Gotion’s parent company’s ties to the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party. The last is relevant because of GCP is approximately 15 minutes from Ferris State University’s cybersecurity program and about an hour away from the Grayling National Guard training facility.

Last November, GCP voters opposed to Project Elephant, as the Gotion project was dubbed, recalled five of the seven members of the Township Board, while the two remaining members resigned. The new board’s implementation of a planning commission prompted Gotion to sue the township for breach of contract.

“This case presents a simple breach of contract claim arising from the unlawful actions of the new members of the Green Charter Township Board, the majority of whom are motivated by admitted anti-Gotion animus,” CCP Gotion’s brief in support for a preliminary injunction begins.

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“The Township’s continued breaches of its contractual obligations to CCP Gotion and will cause CCP Gotion imminent and irreparable harm,” the brief continues.

“Whereas the new Board immediately withdrew the Township’s welcome mat for the manufacturer, including putting in place a Township Planning Commission that will assume its duties next month withdrawing the previous Board’s approval to connect the Gotion plant to the City of Big Rapids’ water system,” the suit claims, adding, “Gotion is left with no choice but to seek this Court’s intervention” because the Township’s approval is mandatory for Gotion to proceed with its plant.

The suit argues the hindering the battery plant “prevents the realization of the will of the entire state of Michigan, which continues to hold ambitious goals of obtaining 100% carbon neutrality by 2050. This state’s commitment to these goals was recently reaffirmed in November 2023 when the state legislature passed a series of landmark clean energy laws. The state’s endorsement of these initiatives has spurred $20 billion in investments in various energy-related sectors within one year of the passage of the IRA and has secured for Michigan 14 projects in clean energy, battery, and EV manufacturing.”

Although the letter is not signed by Thelen, the correspondence does mention him by name in the text, announcing another “Chat with Chuck” virtual town hall to be held this month. The Midwesterner extensively covered Thelen’s April webcast, which appeared to have taken place in an economy motel room.

The Michigan-China Economic and Security Review Group, which includes former U.S. ambassadors Joseph Cella and Peter Hoekstra, tweeted on X its response to the letter and included the full text of the Gotion correspondence.

Rich Studley is an independent consultant to Cella and Hoekstra with decades of experience leading the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

In a phone interview with The Midwesterner, Studley described GCP as a David standing up to Gotion’s Goliath.

“Two years ago I would have said I don’t know if we can stop this or or not,” Studley said. “The Gotion project in fact has been in serious trouble for quite some time and if you look objectively at recent events over the last six weeks between self-inflicted wounds with their heavy-handed lobbying and strange weird communications. Then they’ve doubled down with this anonymous letter, that dear friends letter, when they’re trying to trample those very same dear friends, the dear friends they’re suing. They’re your friends, but they don’t really care what [GCP residents] think.”