In a decision set against a backdrop of economic promise and political controversy, the Manteno Village Board voted 5-1 to approve a zoning change greenlighting a mammoth $2 billion Chinese-owned electric vehicle (EV) battery factory Monday night. Championed by Governor J.B. Pritzker, the move has unfurled a mix of optimism and unease across the community and beyond, with both the prospect of job creation and national security concerns taking center stage.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the Gotion plant, expected to rack up about 2,600 local jobs, aligns with Illinois' ambition to become an EV manufacturing hotspot. The fervor surrounding the factory, however, isn't just economic. Residents worry about adequate information dissemination, environmental impacts, and the ownership of the company by a government whose constitution pledges allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party. One Manteno local, Kerri Rolniak, conveyed her frustration with the board's decision, feeling that "It should be about we the people. And it wasn’t about we the people. It was about their agenda."
Supporters of the factory, such as Patrick Young, president of the Kankakee and Iroquois Building Trades, argue for the economic rejuvenation it promises. "It’s going to generate revenue... Manufacturing is gone from Kankakee County. This is bringing manufacturing back. And I think it’s a good start," Young told the Chicago Tribune. The proposed site, a defunct Kmart distribution center near Interstate Highway 57, is a strategic location given its ready infrastructure and proximity to major transport routes.
An undercurrent of tension stems not only from Gotion’s Chinese ties but also from concerns voiced about the environmental and safety implications of the factory operation. State Rep. Jackie Haas has called attention to the need for transparency and dedication to American interests, as noted by Hoodline, stating, “I urge a larger commitment to transparency and a focus on American-owned companies.” Projects like these often talk about the balance between foreign investments and national autonomy.
The dissent and support for the project echo similar sentiments that arose in Michigan with another Gotion endeavor. Amidst these complex discussions, the Illinois Manufacturers' Association has endorsed the local government's strategic incentive approach, which is tied to the plant's future success in job creation and production. As Manteno prepares for the arrival of Gotion and the accompanying societal shifts, the dialogue around this mix of foreign investment, regional prosperity, and American industrial policy remains fervent and ongoing.