Taxpayers to spend $680K per job at Ford’s Marshall battery plant

Bad math and bad business make good politics for those playing on public confusion.

If the expected 2,500 jobs are created at the envisioned Ford Marshall battery plant, they will come at a high cost: $680,000 per job.

Ford itself stands to get nearly $1 billion in corporate welfare ($210 million) and tax abatements ($772 million). When Michigan economic development officials insisted that Ford would get “not a cent” of the $750 million needed to secure and prepare the Marshall land, they forgot about the billion. But yeah, except for the billion, Ford got nothing.

Recouping those funds is a literal impossibility, given that the jobs will pay anywhere from $20 to $50 per hour. Even if the state of Michigan, rather than the workers, were paid those funds directly, it would take many years to recoup.

Related reading: Michigan leaders seek $750M for Ford site in Marshall

Don’t get me wrong. That’s good money for honest work. But the taxes and spending on those salaries don’t come close to the price tag.

This is a bad deal for the taxpayers of Michigan. And for all the talk, among politicians and in the Lansing press, couching the Marshall plan as an “investment,” it’s not, really. Michigan takes no ownership stake in Ford or the factory.

No, this is old-fashioned corporate welfare. This is a few politicians in Lansing spending the money of 10 million people.

This is why the Mackinac Center opposes corporate welfare. It’s a process steeped in politics and partiality. It’s so particular that it can’t be said to bring the general benefits of economic development. These are favors for the few.

Earlier this year, a paper mill in the Upper Peninsula was given $200 million without even a promise that the mill would create a single new job. Why? Because it was good politics for the politicians representing the U.P.

Related reading: In Escanaba, $200M for a paper mill, but no new jobs required

This is what happens when politicians make business deals. It works as politics, but not as math, not as business, and certainly not as economic development.

Lansing politicians and the Michigan media are complicit in the public’s confusion.

When a big announcement is made, the politician gets positive headlines from reporters repeating what’s said at a press conference. The words go from their lips to the public’s eyes and ears, with little to no vetting.

Only much later, after the headline takes root, are such claims fact-checked. If they ever are.

The public then reads those news reports and believes their favorite politician “created jobs” with their vote. Politicians like Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tout those headlines.

And a new generation of Michigander is created who confuses corporate welfare for economic development, cash giveaways for investment, and job announcements for jobs.

James David Dickson is managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email him at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.