I read the front page story in the local newspaper and felt a combination of "of course" and heart broken. I mean, of course, right? OF COURSE. Of. COURSE. My wife, the eternal cynic warned me. Curse my hopeful spirit. Slamming my fingers in the door over and over and over again.
That's really the only way to describe how I'm feeling after reading that the advanced battery manufacturing plant planned to begin production in Muskegon this year has been delayed for another two years. Seven hundred jobs put on hold.
This one plant would have tipped the balance in Muskegon County out of chronic, long term high unemployment. It would have replaced, at least in numbers, the hundred hear old paper mill that closed its doors years ago.
MUSKEGON TOWNSHIP — Turmoil in the European financial markets has contributed to a nearly two-year delay in the original plans of fortu PowerCell Inc. to build an advanced battery plant in Muskegon Township.
The two-phase development was projected to have created 745 jobs with an overall $670 million investment. Community leaders, job seekers, contractors and industrial suppliers were thrilled when the Michigan Legislature in December 2009 created a special $135 million battery tax credit for fortu's Muskegon development.
I remember a freezing cold, blizzardy December in 2009 when a group of friends and I met with our local state representative at a coffee place to talk to her. We had heard that a tax credit for a large battery manufacturing plant had been approved by our legislature...but none of us believed it was for real.
We asked our State rep "Is this for real? Is this REALLY going to happen? Is this actually happening?"
She shook her head and said "SO MANY PEOPLE have asked me that question. Nobody wants to get their hopes up. But yes. Yes. This is actually happening."
After so many false starts, it was hard to believe. But I let myself believe it.
My wife was all like "Right. I'll believe it when I see it. Not. Gonna. Happen."
And I was all like "OH COME ON! Stop being such a naysayer. THIS TIME it's for real. This it IT. "
They were gonna start manufacturing THIS YEAR. HIRING THIS YEAR. After more than a decade of crappy, crappy, crap crap and hardship. This plant...it was a large part of our ticket out. We'd get out of this shit, continue to diversify and lure folks here and we'd never ever look back.
The company says it's merely a delay. And maybe it is. Maybe it's a two year delay, and folks who have been struggling for so long now need to hang on for another two years. Or maybe it's simply not going to happen.
I do not enjoy this business of waiting around for it to rain. A community simply can't wait for large corporations to get off their fragile and skittish duffs to come in and create jobs. It's the small businesses that, in the long term, will make the difference. The small, mom and pop shops that are vested in the community and have no other option but to stick it out in our neighborhoods. This large, international corporation crap takes control of our own economic destinies out of our hands.
Screw those guys.