There is a divide among Michiganders on whether foreign investment is a good thing

There is a divide among Michiganders on whether foreign investment is a good thing

A large part of Michigan’s manufacturing economy involves foreign investment.

But some Michiganders are taking issue with which foreign companies are taking the chance to break ground in their communities.

And they would like a president who would do the same.

Last October, hundreds of people gathered at a horse ranch near Big Rapids to hear Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.

But in what may have been a harbinger of Ramaswamy’s unsuccessful presidential campaign, not many people were carrying his campaign signs.

There were many other signs attacking a Chinese company’s plans to build a $2.4 billion battery manufacturing plant in their rural west Michigan community.

After that, Ramaswamy struck a chord with the crowd.

“On my dead body, will it come here to the United States of America … and it won’t,” Ramaswamy said, “We will not allow our children to become a bunch of Chinese serfs.”

Big Rapids is not alone. People in other parts of Michigan have raised concerns about other foreign businesses, especially those from China.

Opposition to foreign investment has fallen into several camps; those specifically opposed to Chinese firms, others upset by government incentives for green companies and concern about potential environmental impacts.

The latter is Marjorie Steele’s main concern.

We’re sitting at the kitchen table in the house her parents built half a century ago, about five miles from the planned Chinese battery factory.

When it comes to presidential leadership, Steele would like to see what she describes as a “radical” departure from current government policies, particularly a reduced emphasis on foreign investment.

She points to the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, as an example of where the federal government’s efforts at global trade have had a negative effect.

“Things have not improved since then,” Steele said, “global trade has not increased the quality of life for the average citizen. It has increased the wealth of very few.”

Mark Heusel is a consultant who works with companies in East Asia looking to invest and build in the US

As you might expect, Heusel believes foreign investment is a good thing and vital to Michigan’s economy. Although he admits it has become more complicated in the last decade.

“Even when things got tougher for China, Michigan has still been able to step up and see that this is a reasonable play and makes sense for the business community,” Heusel said.

Heusel says the main concern for those involved in foreign business investment is the need for consistency in federal policy. He says presidential leadership is needed here.

“When you think about an investment that’s potentially worth billions of dollars, you’re going to be able to understand that over the long haul and so having stability and security is really, really important to our customers,” Huesel said.

Meanwhile, people in Big Rapids aren’t waiting for presidential leadership.

Opposition to the Chinese battery factory has only grown in the past year.

Orman Hook describes himself as one of the co-architects of local efforts fighting the battery factory.

“Business should be seen as national security,” Hook said at that rally last October, “Become your friends, but not your enemies.”

In November, in what could be a clear signal to the presidential candidates, Green Card city voters recalled all city board members who voted to support the Chinese battery factory development plans.

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