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Michigan Senate approves $100 million incentive for Ford, clearing last legislative hurdle


A more than $100 million tax-funded incentive package for Ford Motor Co. quickly cleared its last legislative hurdle Thursday morning, as a key Senate committee voted to send the money to the Detroit automotive stalwart. 

After briefly hearing from the state's economic development chief and a representative from Ford, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 14-3 in favor of the incentives. Three Republicans opposed the request: Sens. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo; Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, and Jim Runestad, R-White Lake. 

The vote comes after a House committee last week also approved allocating the money. Nothing further needs to happen for the state to start providing Ford the funding, confirmed a spokesman for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. 

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Ford executives announced earlier this month the state would provide the taxpayer money as part of a multi-billion-dollar expansion by Ford. There are separate tax exemptions valued at roughly $50 million as well. 

The company promises to spend roughly $3.7 billion and create 6,000 new jobs across several states, with the bulk of the new money and positions promised to Michigan.

"Creating quality jobs that support our communities and Michigan residents requires collaboration and partnership," said Gabby Bruno, director of economic development for Ford. 

"These jobs and investments wouldn't be possible without the support of the state." 

Bruno said the public money will help the company's broader plans to nearly double production of its new and popular all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck in Dearborn. The project also includes producing more of its traditional gas-powered vehicles in Michigan, like the new Mustang and Ranger. 

After the vote, Bruno said the company's entire investment in the state since 2016 exceeds $10 billion and includes creating or retaining 10,000 new jobs. 

 “Ford’s $2 billion investment and the new jobs supported by these incentives deepen our 119-year presence in Michigan, and we thank Gov. Whitmer, the MEDC and the Legislature for finalizing this package," Bruno said in a statement.

There are strings attached to the funding, noted Quentin Messer, CEO of the MEDC, the state-funded entity that helps oversee taxpayer-funded incentive packages. 

Messer told lawmakers the state will disburse money to Ford in quarterly installments after it shows eligible expenses from one of five project sites in Michigan. In total, Ford must show it has invested $1.16 billion and created 3,030 qualified new jobs for it to receive the entirety of the state-funded incentive.

The state can claw back some of the money if Ford falls short in creating and filling the promised jobs, Messer said. 

"The process is working as it should," Messer told lawmakers after thanking them for agreeing to allocate the money. 

This is the latest large, taxpayer-funded deal provided to a big auto manufacturer by the state. Michigan lawmakers already approved more than $1 billion as part of a massive package to support a new General Motors battery plant in the Lansing area. That package also received a small amount of pushback from some conservative lawmakers, including some who voted Thursday against the Ford incentives. 

More: Ford to build new plants in Tennessee, Kentucky in $11 billion investment in electric vehicles

More: Michigan lawmakers approve $1 billion incentive fund to attract new plants

But the incentives come after Whitmer and lawmakers faced criticism when Ford announced in September it had plans for massive expansions in Tennessee and Kentucky. 

"We've got to compete with the rest of the world to earn their investment here in Michigan. And we won," Whitmer said when Ford announced its latest expansion plans.

"This is a big win for Michigan. Ford is going to continue to make these investments and when they invest in Michigan, it's good for every one of us." 

Reporter Phoebe Wall Howard contributed to this story. Contact Dave Boucher at [email protected] or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.