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Ford was planning a $3.6 billion plant for EV battery manufacturing, providing 2,500 jobs for the Berry Hill, Virginia, region. But Governor Glenn Youngkin told Ford to go somewhere else. That’s because Ford’s massive investment was being done in conjunction with China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology. It’s the largest battery manufacturer in the world. 

Why did Virginia’s governor say that about Ford?

EV batteries
Robots transport ready cars batteries | SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP via Getty

In December, a Youngkin spokesperson told the Detroit News: “While Ford is an iconic American company, it became clear that this proposal would serve as a front for the Chinese Communist party, which could compromise our economic security and Virginians’ personal privacy.” Youngkin campaigned he’d bring economic development and manufacturing jobs to rural Virginia. He must not be aware that 13.1 percent of those living in Pittsylvania County, where Berry Hill is located, are under the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

Ford has already invested millions of dollars in preparing the site for the plant. So there were plenty of expectations from the automaker that this was already a foregone conclusion. But there are also plenty of areas outside of Virginia eager to see such an undertaking happen in their midst. 

Does Ford have other battery plants in the U.S.?

EV batteries
An employee assembles battery boxes | Yang Mujun/VCG via Getty

Ford already has three other battery plants in the U.S. Kentucky has two of them, and the one in Tennessee is the largest Ford battery plant so far. Ford is only behind Tesla in producing the most EVs in the U.S.

“Virginians can be confident that companies with known ties to the Chinese Communist Party won’t receive a leg up from the Commonwealth’s economic incentive packages,” Younkin’s spokesperson added. “When the potentially damaging effects of the deal were realized, the plant proposal never reached a final discussion stage.”

In Florida, around the same time as Youngkin’s announcement, its governor was demanding the state legislature ban Chinese entities from purchasing land. And though there may or may not be a coincidence, Youngkin has continued teasing a presidential bid in 2024. Florida’s Governor DeSantis, meanwhile, leads all other Republicans in poling as the party’s presidential candidate in 2024.  

Where will this plant end up being built?

EV batteries
Battery panels for the Lucid Air EV | David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty

Ford is Investing $11.4 Billion in Electric F-Series and Battery Plants

“To deny people in the community jobs because you’re in last place in Republican presidential primaries is gubernatorial malpractice,” Senator Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, said. “I mean, this is clearly just obvious to me that the governor’s in some kind of out-China-bashing-contest with DeSantis and Governor Greg Abbott out of Texas.”

It’s hard to imagine that with a population where 85 percent have high school educations and there’s 13.1 percent below the poverty line, this news is welcome. And it is also hard to imagine that China doesn’t have plenty of sources already for covert information in the U.S. But we’ll leave those conclusions to the Pittsylvania County citizens. In the meantime, Ford is looking at sites in and around Michigan to build its next mega-battery factory.