U.S. transportation secretary visits Kansas, gives speech at future Panasonic plant site

U.S. transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg said the De Soto electric vehicle battery project shows importance of U.S. manufacturing

by Rachel Mipro, Kansas Reflector
February 27, 2023

DE SOTO โ€” Surrounded by local and national leaders, U.S. transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg pointed to the Panasonic project as an example of rural revitalization through green energy transportation projects.

Buttigieg, along with Lt. Governor David Toland and U.S. Representative Sharice Davids, among others, gave speeches Monday at the site of the future Panasonic electric vehicle battery plant in De Soto, following his attendance at the Kansas City, Missouri, airport terminal opening.

Buttigieg said rural communities across America have struggled with a lack of job opportunities, influencing young people to move elsewhere for careers.

โ€œSo many people in so many communities, in places like Indiana, in places like Kansas, grew up with the message in recent decades that the only way to succeed was to get out,โ€ Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg said new electric vehicle manufacturing jobs like Panasonic would reverse the trend, and jobs were coming back in states like Kansas, South Carolina, Louisiana and Tennessee.

โ€œThis really is a new and stronger era for American manufacturing,โ€ Buttigieg said.

Panasonic is a major multinational conglomerate, and the battery facility in De Soto โ€” population 6,000 โ€” is expected to produce cutting edge high-capacity vehicle batteries. Kansas secured a deal for the $4 billion battery manufacturing facility after Gov. Laura Kellyโ€™s administration and the Kansas Legislature put together Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion, an $829.2 million financial incentive package for major businesses known as APEX.

The De Soto facility will employ about 4,000 workers with an average hourly wage of $30 and create an estimated additional 4,000 jobs in the region.

Toland, who also serves as Kansas commerce secretary, said the Panasonic build is already changing the Kansas economy. He compared the impact of the plant to Kansasโ€™ aviation sector industry back when Kansas was an aerospace industry leader.

Toland said the influx of Panasonic jobs and other business could keep young professionals from leaving the state, a significant problem in recent years.

โ€œFor too many years, our talent pipeline has pumped our young people out of state to Austin or Nashville or Denver,โ€ Toland said. โ€œWe have been taking our best asset, our talented young people, and exporting them at a deficit. Thatโ€™s not sustainable. But it was happening, in part, because we didnโ€™t have the right economic opportunities here for our young people.โ€

Kelly has prioritized economic development, especially in rural areas, during her time as governor. The financial incentive project that attracted Panasonic also helped the state land a $1.8 billion expansion of a Wichita computer chip manufacturer.

Toland said the projects have put Kansas on better footing for the future.

โ€œWe have bent the curve and changed the trajectory of the state of Kansas for the better,โ€ Toland said.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttp://www.sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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