A battery is set up for installation in a Chevrolet Bolt EV at the General Motors Orion Assembly Plant, November 4, 2016, Orion Township, Michigan.

AP Photo / Duane Burleson, File

LANSING, Michigan (AP) – Michigan would create new economic development funds to help the state achieve major business expansions, including possible electric vehicle and battery factories, under fast-track bills that received initial approval on Wednesday.

Lawmakers have not specified how much money they could put in the accounts to offer manufacturers and other businesses and to prepare industrial sites ready to go. Some or most of the money would likely come from $ 5.6 billion in discretionary federal COVID-19 pandemic rescue funding.

Although the proponents have not clarified which pending deals Michigan is vying for, several have told the House Government Operations Committee that Michigan must remain competitive in the auto industry.

“These are real real-time opportunities that will be decided over the next 60-90 days,” said Quentin Messer Jr., CEO of Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Chairman and Chairman of the Michigan Strategic Fund.

The Republican-led House passed Bill 83-21, with bipartisan support, hours after it was brought forward by the panel. The Senate is expected to consider it in the coming days. Negotiations are ongoing.

Donors have singled out Dearborn-based Ford plans to build three battery plants and an electrical assembly plant in Tennessee and Kentucky, a blow to the country’s automotive hub. Japanese automaker Toyota this week announcement it will build an electric vehicle battery plant in North Carolina.

General Motors, headquartered in Detroit, plans to build four North American battery cell factories. Two have been announced, in Ohio and Tennessee.

“When you look at what happened with Ford, without even considering Michigan, I think it sent shockwaves through our state. We have to make sure we have the resources and the tools ready to be competitive across the country, ”said Speaker of the House Jason Wentworth, a Republican from Farwell who hopes the package will be sent to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer beforehand. adjournment of legislatures next week.

Wendy Block, vice president of business advocacy and member engagement for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said unspecified companies could announce “transformational” and “generational” projects as early as January. Three big projects are on the table, she said.

“Time is definitely of the essence here,” she said. “We are operating under tight deadlines here if we are to be competitive for some of these upcoming projects. “

The House also approved legislation that would extend a 2017 tax incentive program for redevelopment work by five years, while leaving a $ 1 billion incentive cap in place.

In 2019, lawmakers allowed a separate $ 200 million “good jobs” tax incentive program to expire that had been used to attract large-scale business expansion for about two years.

Ahead of the House vote, several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle questioned the use of taxpayer dollars to create jobs, calling them corporate giveaways that could be better spent on modernizing businesses. infrastructure, schools and other government services or to keep taxes low.

“It’s one of the most anti-free market things I’ve ever seen. … These are big companies getting into bed with big government, ”said Rep. Steve Johnson, a Republican from Wayland.

But Democratic Representative John Cherry of Flint, noting how the city has lost 80,000 auto jobs over the decades, said Michigan must adapt to a “revolution” in transportation technology as a greener economy is moving closer and further away from gasoline-powered cars.

“Other states know that when there is a technological change and we have to totally rebuild our manufacturing base to reflect our technological orientation, they have the opportunity to seize that market. And they are, ”he said.

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