In The News

‘Not Good For Us’: Locals Furious Over Secretive Deal With CCP-Linked Battery Firm

  • Gotion, a Chinese Communist Party-connected company, has been approved to build a lithium battery plant in Manteno, Illinois.
  • Residents who live in the town did not find out about the plant until just days before Gotion signed an agreement with the Illinois government, they told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • “I think people need to be able to ask questions and know about what’s going on before decisions are being made,” Annette LaMore, a longtime resident of Manteno, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Residents of Manteno, Illinois were outraged when they found out local and state officials had finalized a deal with a Chinese Communist Party-linked company to construct an electric vehicle battery “gigafactory” in their town.

The multi-billion dollar deal, which Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced on Sept. 8, was hashed out behind closed doors and without any public input, according to over a dozen Manteno residents who spoke to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“There was absolutely no public participation or notification that this was going [on],” Darrel Bruck Jr., a longtime resident of Manteno who runs an informational group called “Outrage of Kankakee County,” told the DCNF. “There were probably 200 people [at the announcement], but the public was not invited. It was strictly for local politicians, the mayor, some local people who owned land who will make a lot of money off strip malls and such.”

Manteno Mayor Tim Nugent had been involved in discussions with Gotion Inc. and the Illinois government from at least December 2022, he said in an Aug. 23 Kankakee County meeting. Nugent also said he spoke with individual council members about the deal behind closed doors despite the project receiving massive tax incentives from the county, which he referred to as an “intergovernmental agreement between certain Kankakee County taxing districts and officials,” according to a recording of an Aug. 7 meeting.

“When I heard of it, I stopped, because it was the first I’d heard about it, and I immediately texted all of the trustees for our city,” Annette LaMore, a longtime resident of the area and a former Manteno council board member, told the DCNF. “I wondered why money would be so important that we’d overlook all of the safety issues. Not one of the trustees — we have six — got back to me.”

“I asked the mayor if there was an informational meeting that was open for the public,” LaMore continued. “He answered me and said, ‘There are no information meetings that I am aware of.’ I feel like, ‘Did he forget that he’s working for us, for the community?’ I think people need to be able to ask questions and know about what’s going on before decisions are being made.”

When residents of Manteno had the opportunity to speak at a town hall meeting on Sept. 18 — the first official public meeting on the issue — Nugent limited the discussion to a comment period and refused to answer the locals’ questions.

“You can tell us we need this battery plant. But you don’t know! Look at the people that are here tonight. This is exactly why you didn’t publicize it,” Bob Forsythe, a Manteno local, said at the meeting. “It’s not good for us. If it was, you’d be ranting all over the place.”

Residents told the DCNF that they felt concerned about the plant’s placement, which will be across the street from a residential neighborhood, next to a large blasting quarry and within a mile of the village’s elementary, middle and high schools.

“My concern is that it’s close to the elementary school, less than five minutes away,” Dorian Black Reynolds, a resident of Manteno and the mother of a child who currently attends the village’s elementary school, told the DCNF. “The pollution and the possibility of disasters are not something the town is prepared for.”

“The town seems to want to be having discussions of what is being done, and most people didn’t seem to have a clue that something was going on until they knew Pritzker was coming into town,” she added.

Gotion, Inc. is a subsidiary of Gotion High-Tech, which is based out of Hefei, China and employs 923 CCP members, including the CEO. Former U.S. ambassadors have called on the Treasury Department to launch a review into Gotion’s operations because of its CCP connections.

Gotion has also announced a plan to create a battery plant near Big Rapids, Michigan, and purchased 270 acres near the area in August to build its new plant. Michigan locals have heavily protested the battery plant for months, and succeeded in blocking the company from purchasing several additional plots of farm land near Big Rapids.

Gotion received a $536 million incentive package from state and local governments to move to the Manteno area, as well as a property tax abatement from Kankakee County over the next 30 years, the government agreements show.

“The whole of Kankakee county is going to be impacted by this,” a longtime resident of Manteno, who asked for anonymity, told the DCNF. “Taxes are definitely going to go up. The elderly, who are just making it, and the families who are still trying to make it … Our sales taxes, our local taxes. . . everything will go up.”

Bringing Gotion into Manteno would invest $2 billion and bring more than 2,600 jobs to the area, according to the press release.

“The workforce is a mess right now,” Reynolds told the DCNF. “Yes, this should help the community. [But] again, at what risk? To themselves, by working in the factory? The pay is going to be about $55,000 a year, but for what the job is and what the risk entails, it’s not worth it … I would not work there. If they quadrupled the pay, I still would not work there. Why would you want to put yourself in close proximity to [carcinogens]?”

One resident told the DCNF that although she is concerned about the deal, she hopes local officials have acted for the benefit of the community.

“As residents, we have to hope that our government is looking out for us, that they have a plan, that they know that this is going to be safe,” Crystal Wolfe, a Manteno local, told the DCNF. “But working off of hopes and dreams … I don’t think lithium-ion batteries are the way that we should go. There’s a danger in moving too fast. I guess that’s what really scares me, health-wise, is that the danger here is that it’s moving so fast. The true unknown is what are the long-term effects going to be, if any? I hope … I hope our government is looking out for our best interest.”

Pritzker, Gotion, Inc. and Nugent did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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Lillian Tweten

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Lillian Tweten

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