DE SOTO, Kan. — Two big support elements needed to help Panasonic’s electric vehicle battery plant thrive in De Soto, Kansas were already in the works long before the company officially broke ground on its $4 billion investment Wednesday: new roads, and workforce training.
— Roads —
The Kansas Department of Transportation was already studying K-10 Highway, its bridges, and interchanges as the population in Johnson County continues to expand and move farther south and west. Panasonic’s announcement made it clear that upgrade and potentially expansions would be necessary.
“One thing we have to think about is how are we moving people here and how are we moving cars here,” said Kansas Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz.
KDOT is has already started or is planning more than $50 million of upgrades to bridges and ramps with more in the pipeline. A study on K-10 right now is considering what changes it might see in the future, including extra lanes.
“What we see on K-10 is it actually it has just as much traffic as I-70 in many locations,” Lorenz said.
— Workforce Training —
One of the biggest challenges could be finding enough workers, requiring local community colleges to help train the future workforce.
“In fact, we’re heading over to the Kansas Bioscience Authority building that will become a training center and that will train folks who will be able to work at Panasonic and then be able to broaden out,” said Governor Kelly, referring to an event after Panasonic’s groundbreaking Wednesday.
That facility is about 13 miles away from Panasonic’s new plant with K-10 needed to get most of the way there.
Johnson County Community College also tells FOX4 it’s been working with other schools for months to be ready to design a curriculum for workers that Panasonic will also customize to fit its needs. A similar program at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada has been very successful helping train workers at a variety of skill points for Tesla’s and Panasonic’s Gigafactory plant in Sparks, Nevada.
FOX4 traveled to Reno to see how the Gigafactory plant impacted that community and what Kansas leaders and residents can expect once Panasonic’s factory is mass producing electric vehicle batteries by 2025. You can see what FOX4 found on Monday, November 7 on FOX4 News at 10 p.m.
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