Ford Motor Co. denied Thursday that it had already chosen the Pittsylvania County mega site for its battery power plant when Gov. Glenn Youngkin withdrew Virginia from site selection.
Melissa Miller, government and public policy communications manager at Ford, told Cardinal that “that reporting is inaccurate.”
“Ford had not yet made a site decision,” she said in a phone interview.
Youngkin also denied the claims, which came from two anonymous sources with knowledge of the situation, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Thursday morning.
“Virginia did not win the project.…We removed ourselves from consideration in an ongoing process,” Youngkin wrote in a text message to the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Monday, they reported.
Youngkin told the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Danville Register & Bee in a phone interview Tuesday that “what you’re writing is wrong….the fact set you are navigating around is fundamentally wrong,” they reported.
He withdrew Virginia from the running because of concerns over Chinese government influence and the possibility that federal tax incentives would benefit a company with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
Vic Ingram, a member of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, said he and other local officials could not comment on the situation because of standing non-disclosure agreements.
But two state delegates spoke on the issue during the Virginia House of Delegates regular session on Thursday.
Del. Don Scott, Jr., D-Portsmouth, the House Democratic Leader, said that Youngkin “wanted to make headlines by calling Ford a front for China.” Scott called Ford “an iconic American company.”
“This is the natural result of someone putting their ambition before their duty,” Scott said, referencing Youngkin’s possible run for president in 2024.
Scott also mentioned the Carlyle Group, of which Youngkin was CEO, which does business with China.
“[Youngkin] ran a company, the Carlyle Group, that has billions wrapped up in China,” Scott said. “Forty percent of their investments in Asia are in China. China made Youngkin a very, very wealthy man. It’s not good enough for Southside, but it’s good enough for him.”
And Scott said he took issue with Youngkin’s announcement of the withdrawal from site selection at his State of the Commonwealth address.
“You don’t wait until the State of the Commonwealth to inform the Commonwealth of Virginia that you shut down a deal that would bring 2,500 jobs to a suffering community,” he said.
What happens in Southside affects the rest of the state, Scott said, and questioned whether other big companies would consider locating in Virginia “when this is how our governor behaves.”
“He owes hardworking Virginians an answer about what really went on, and what his plan is to fix it right now,” Scott said.
Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott County and the House Majority Leader, disagreed with Scott, referencing reports that Ford had not yet chosen a site. It “wasn’t even close to a done deal,” Kilgore said before agreeing with Youngkin’s concerns about China.
“Ford was going to build the building, but everything else was going to be controlled by this Chinese company,” Kilgore said. “If we had won this, our only megasite right now in Virginia could have been held up and tied up for years because we wouldn’t have known if we got a legitimate business deal out of this or not.”
Kilgore also called Youngkin “a great individual” and said that the personal attacks from “the other side” had to stop.
The Southern Virginia Mega Site at Berry Hill is 3,528 acres of land that has seen over $200 million in investment since the site was purchased in 2008.
The site is ready for a developer to bring jobs and industry to the Danville-Pittsylvania County area. The Ford battery plant would have been a $3.5 billion investment and created 2,500 jobs, if it had located in Pittsylvania.