Powering Strong Communities

Public Power Community of Marshall, Mich., Poised to Benefit from Ford Battery Plant

Kevin Maynard, Director of Electric Utilities for the public power community of Marshall, Mich., recently detailed how Marshall will benefit from Ford’s plans to invest $3.5 billion to build the country’s first automaker-backed lithium iron phosphate battery plant in the city.

Ford announced the news about the battery plant on Feb. 23. Ford noted that the plant will initially employ 2,500 people when production of LFP batteries begins in 2026. Ford will have the option to further grow its battery capacity at the plant, which will be part of a wholly owned Ford subsidiary.

While investor-owned Michigan utility Consumers Energy will be supplying power to the plant, Maynard noted that Marshall’s utility will have plenty of work on its plate in terms of economic development tied to the plant and serving new load.

In general, if a customer is outside of a city’s limits in Michigan “and it’s a new customer it can be served by either the municipal electric system or the investor-owned utility,” he said in an interview with Public Power Current. The Ford site is outside of Marshall’s city limits. Marshall’s utility and Consumers Energy both made pitches to serve the new plant.

Maynard noted that any of the support industries or ancillary industries “that come along with” the plant will be served by the city’s utility.

“It looks like there’s going to be water and wastewater treatment facilities that are going to be built out there to serve the site. We plan to serve those,” he said. “And then, of course, there’s all the local economic activity – residential, commercial, industrial…that we anticipate will add to our load here.”

Maynard noted that the utility is “working on a number of potential residential developments. Some of those are single family dwellings. Some of them are apartments and multi-family apartment structures. We were working on all of those before Ford’s announcement. So our anticipation is that with 2,500 new jobs coming to the Marshall area, there will be a renewed interest in residential building here in our community.”

Supply Chain

Maynard also addressed the question of whether the utility is facing any supply chain challenges.

“We have taken a look at what our inventory levels should be and tried to plan accordingly,” he said. “If we, for example, said how many electric meters do we typically use in a year’s time – well, maybe that should be our minimum reorder quantity now.”

In the short term, the utility has purchased re-manufactured electric meter units. The city is considering an advanced metering infrastructure system “and we didn’t want to just halt all meter changeouts while we got that fully vetted.” So the utility is buying re-manufactured meters for electric $25, “which is dirt cheap, so we don’t feel bad if we have to throw them away in four or five years.”

Transformers have also been an issue, he noted, while “poles have not been much of an issue.”