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Bollinger Motors gets $3M grant to expand Michigan facilities, add jobs

Posted By: The Detroit News on July 25, 2023.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

Oak Park-based electric commercial vehicle company Bollinger Motors Inc. has been awarded $3 million from the state in support of its plan to add up to 237 new jobs and invest $44 million in its Oak Park and Livonia facilities.

The Michigan Strategic Fund board approved a Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant for the company during its meeting Tuesday.

The board also approved grants for global automotive supplier Magna and vacuum insulated glass developer LuxWall Inc. for investments that will create several hundred jobs as well as amendments to the previously approved grants for battery parts manufacturer Gotion Inc., which plans a production facility in the Big Rapids area.

Bollinger, founded in 2015 in the Catskill Mountains of New York, revealed its first working electric truck prototype in 2017. The company then moved to Michigan, where it employs 70.

Jason Puscas, general counsel at Bollinger, said that through a partnership with Roush Industries in Livonia, the company is midway through its design validation prototypes and less than nine months away from startup production of its first vehicle.

The firm is preparing to start production of its first vehicle in the first half of 2024. The initial product will a Class A medium-duty chassis cab.

“These are traditionally used for lower-mileage, local route applications and we’re going be able to offer a variety of use cases for our region with body options such as flatbeds, boxes, buckets and refrigeration bodies,” Puscas said during the Tuesday meeting. “This is a market segment that does not currently have a solution in the EV space.”

Most of the capital investment will at the firm’s Livonia manufacturing location, according to an MEDC briefing memo. Some will be used to expand its corporate headquarters in Oak Park. The jobs created by the investment are expected to pay an average wage of $55.37 per hour plus benefits.

Puscas said they will be able to fulfill orders of up to 2,500 vehicles next year. He said he expects employment to grow from 70 to 300 by 2028.

The board also approved amendments to two previously approved grants for battery parts manufacturer Gotion that remove Big Rapids Charter Township from the project and extend the timeline by one year. The board also approved changes to the MSF Designated Renaissance Zone that would reduce the boundary and account for the changes to the project site.

In October, Gotion announced plans for a $2.4 billion electric vehicle battery parts facility on the outskirts of Big Rapids. The company later said it would focus its initial efforts solely in Green Township after Big Rapids Township requested a federal review of potential security risks associated with the Chinese-owned facility.

Gotion expects that during the next seven years, the project will create at least 2,350 new jobs and a projected investment of $2.36 billion by Dec. 31, 2031, to build and equip the battery material facilities, according to an MEDC briefing memo.

“The Michigan Strategic Fund’s unanimous approval today aligns with Gotion Inc.’s publicly stated decision in February to focus on our core area of development in Green Charter Township, which is part of Mecosta County and near the city of Big Rapids,” Chuck Thelen, vice president of Gotion Inc.-North American Manufacturing, said in a statement Tuesday.

“With the MSF’s important administrative vote, Gotion Inc. is now one more step closer to investing $2.36 billion into Mecosta County’s economy and creating more than 2,300 good-paying jobs for people living in every community throughout the region,” he said.

According to MEDC staff, the incentive amendment was needed “to appropriately address the restructuring of the project site that has taken place since MSF Board approval as well as minor delays.

“Though these were high level changes, and the project remains the same with regard to job creation and investment, an amendment request is needed to accurately reflect the changes,” MEDC staff wrote. “In addition to height restrictions associated with the airport in Big Rapids Charter Township, wetland impacts also changed the configuration of the site.”

The company plans to create a new battery campus at an industrial park in Green Township for the production of cathode and anode materials for battery cells.

According to the MEDC, Gotion and economic development agency The Right Place Inc. are working on acquiring land and have purchase agreements for the parcels needed for near-term development.

The board also approved Tuesday a $4.25 million Michigan Business Development Program grant for Magna Seating of America, Inc. for a project expected to create up to 532 new jobs and a capital investment of up to $105.1 million in Auburn Hills.

The global automotive supplier plans to construct a 280,000-square-foot facility and is considering Auburn Hills for the project, according to the MEDC. Nearly 90% of the facility will be manufacturing and the rest office space.

“While Magna remains committed to Michigan, incentive assistance is necessary to make the expansion in Michigan a competitive decision,” MEDC staff wrote.

Michigan has Magna’s largest U.S. footprint and serves as its corporate home. It operates 32 facilities in the state and employs more than 11,000 Michigan residents. According to an MEDC briefing memo, the company has also considered its facility in Tennessee. Mexico was also under consideration. The jobs created by the investment will pay an average wage of more than $958 per week plus benefits.

The board approved Tuesday a $6 million Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant for Ypsilanti-based LuxWall Inc. The company, which develops vacuum insulated glass, plans to create up to 453 jobs and make a capital investment of up to $165.67 million in Detroit and Litchfield Township in Hillsdale County.

LuxWall Inc. was founded in 2016 and develops vacuum insulated glass expected to reduce heating and cooling energy consumption by approximately 45%. The company has 49 employees in Michigan.

The company plans to renovate and rehabilitating two buildings totaling 216,000 square feet in Litchfield Township on the site of the former American Axle plant. The firm is also evaluating locations in Detroit for a second facility that would consist of 280,000 square feet. Among the potential Detroit locations is a site at Fort and Waterman streets, owned by Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock, said Scott Thomsen, chairman and CEO of LuxWall.

“Bedrock would construct the building and then we would obviously lease the building from Bedrock and then we will scale that building,” he said.

The Litchfield Township factory will allow the company to produce 200,000 energy efficient windows each year, while the second in Detroit would take that figure to 600,000 per year, officials said. Thomsen said the company is backed by Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Khosla Ventures, 2150 Ventures and Prelude Ventures.  The project’s jobs are expected to pay an average wage of $1,653 per week plus benefits.

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