Last month, Panasonic Energy announced that it will soon build one of the United States’ largest electric vehicle battery plants in De Soto. The company plans to invest $4 billion and hire 4,000 people — making this not just the largest private investment in our state’s history, but also an enormous job opportunity for Kansans.
It’s obvious that this is great news for northeast Kansas, but readers in other parts of the state may be wondering what this announcement means for them. As the current governor of Kansas and the former lieutenant governor and secretary of commerce, that concern has been top of mind for us as well. Our state is on a rocket ship of growth, but as we reach for the stars, it’s important that no community be left behind.
Thankfully, there are several reasons why this news will fuel prosperity that benefits every Kansan.
First, securing this deal was a bipartisan effort. Earlier this year, a majority of legislators in both parties modernized Kansas’ economic development toolbox by passing the Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion Act, or APEX. Republican leaders like Senate President Ty Masterson and Speaker Ron Ryckman worked closely with Democrats to get this done, in the process proving to Panasonic and other companies that our state is a unified force when it comes to creating jobs and supporting businesses.
We can attest that bringing both parties together to accomplish anything of this magnitude isn’t easy — but it shows that we can rise above partisan politics and deliver for Kansans when it counts.
Second, this factory will boost the regional economy far beyond De Soto. Panasonic plans to hire 4,000 people at a rate of $30 per hour — boosting the state’s average wage. On top of that, an estimated 4,000 jobs will be created by local suppliers like caterers, custodians and electricians, and 16,500 construction workers will be hired to build the facility.
In total, that’s nearly 25,000 people who will soon be within driving distance of the De Soto area. 25,000 more people shopping at local businesses, 25,000 more people visiting museums and tourist attractions, and 25,000 more people contributing to Kansas communities.
That influx of cash — including over half a billion dollars in increased payroll alone — will have impacts far beyond the Kansas City metro region: Manhattan, Emporia and even Wichita should all see increased business in the years to come.
Most exciting is that this announcement creates business opportunities statewide. It’s not just Panasonic — other companies are knocking on our door because we’ve improved Kansans’ quality of life, strengthened our workforce and supported local entrepreneurs. So while yes, the Panasonic plant will be in northeast Kansas, that’s not necessarily where other projects will be.
The same reasons Panasonic was attracted to Kansas have also brought other companies here — for instance, Scorpion Biologics in Manhattan, the Bombardier North America headquarters in Wichita, Great Plains Manufacturing in Salina and Hilmar Cheese in Dodge City.
More employers will join them. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats — and this rising tide of economic growth will lift every part of Kansas.
Businesses wanting to come to Kansas is a big change from where we were just a few years ago. In 2018, Kansas’ economy was a disaster. The state’s credit rating had been downgraded, school budgets were being slashed and the fund used to improve roads and highways was being robbed.
Worse yet, businesses couldn’t count on enough long-term stability to plan for the future.
Thankfully, Kansas is back on the right track. In recent years, Kansas has racked up numerous awards for being a national leader in creating jobs, including for attracting the most business investment per capita. Winning Panasonic is one more to add to our trophy case.
We don’t claim that this project will solve every challenge facing our communities. But every Kansan should know what it means for them — that, with the right leadership, both sides of the aisle can work together to deliver jobs and opportunity to the entire state.
Let’s celebrate this milestone and then begin working to get to the next.
Laura Kelly is the governor of Kansas. Gary Sherrer is the former lieutenant governor of Kansas.
This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: News about Panasonic battery plant is good for all of Kansas