DESOTO, KS— Source: U.S. transportation secretary visits Kansas, gives speech at future Panasonic plant site by Rachel Mipro, published by Kansas Reflector.

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.

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

“This really is a new and stronger era for American manufacturing,” Buttigieg said. Panasonic is a major multinational conglomerate, and the battery facility in De Soto — a population of 6,000 — is expected to produce cutting-edge high-capacity vehicle batteries. Kansas secured a deal for the $4 billion battery manufacturing facility after Gov. Laura Kelly’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 Kansas’ 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.

“For too many years, our talent pipeline has pumped our young people out of state to Austin or Nashville or Denver,” Toland said. “We have been taking our best asset, our talented young people, and exporting them at a deficit. That’s not sustainable. But it was happening, in part, because we didn’t have the right economic opportunities here for our young people.”

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. “We have bent the curve and changed the trajectory of the state of Kansas for the better,” Toland said.