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Students promote jobs over anti-China hysteria in Big Rapids, Michigan

By Jacob Smith

Big Rapids, Michigan – On July 7, student canvassers took to the streets of Big Rapids to support new auto jobs in Michigan and to oppose anti-China hysteria. Students are responding to the need for good paying jobs in Mecosta County, where unemployment is amongst the highest in Michigan.

The Gotion Battery Plant being built near Big Rapids, Michigan will reportedly create 2300 permanent jobs and hundreds of temporary construction jobs. The Chinese-owned firm is investing $2.4 billion into an electric vehicle parts factory.

When the Gotion plant started to move forward with breaking ground in June, the Michigan legislature was voting to give the plant a $175 million tax abatement. Then far-right activists and Republican politicians launched a media campaign making outrageous claims. The anti-communist hysteria temporarily drowned out the fact that thousands of good paying auto industry jobs are returning to Michigan.

In response, Sam Skene created the Ferris State Students and Big Rapids Coalition for Jobs. Skene reached out to Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at Oakland Community College in the hope of creating an information and flyering campaign. Students explained to local residents about the need for new jobs, livable wages, community investment from Gotion, and the new training program Gotion will create at Ferris State.

On June 17, students handed out 500 flyers, going door to door, reaching a significant section of Big Rapids. Big Rapids is a small city in sharp decline. It lost nearly half its population since the 1980s deindustrialization era began in the Midwest. Now Ferris State University, the main anchor of the local economy, is struggling to keep its enrollments up. The new EV factory will stabilize the struggling local economy.

Many local businesses and residents gladly took flyers. Student canvassers found people willing for open and insightful conversations. One local business owner said, “There’s so much racist hatred going around for no reason, we need jobs, not attacks on investments in our community.”

A local arborist, Daniel Johns, said, “Let them set up shop. We need jobs. It doesn't matter what country the boss is from.”

Student activist Sam Skene said, “These aggressive acts purport the racist and outdated idea that it is inherently bad to be Asian and successful in America. With the assistance of the SDS we were able to spread awareness of this issue to hundreds of members of our local community.”

“As a Flint native I especially understand the problem communities face when there is job scarcity. I find it crucial that SDS participates in any campaign that aims to inform and destroy xenophobic ideology,” said Terience Perry, president of Oakland Community College SDS.

#GrandRapidsMI #jobs