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De Soto won't lose small town feel with construction of Panasonic battery plant

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A grey water tower with green lettering says "De Soto." The water tower's paint is aging.
Savannah Hawley
/
KCUR 89.3
Panasonic announced it will build a $4 billion electric vehicle battery plant in the small but growing town of De Soto, Kansas. The plant is estimated to bring 4,000 jobs, and some say the town needs to improve its infrastructure before that happens.

City officials say the small city of De Soto, Kansas, is preparing for the influx of people and infrastructure that will arrive with the construction of Panasonic's battery plant.

Ground breaking at the site of the Panasonic plant in De Soto, Kansas, will begin in September, according to officials. The small city, with fewer than 6,500 people, was selected as the construction site of the $4 billion battery plant expected to employ 4,000 workers.

City officials say the plant is good for De Soto but there are challenges that come with it.

"You know, it's big, but you don't realize how big it is until you start having meetings with the consultants, with Panasonic, with all the other interested parties and realize just what a complicated task it is," said City Administrator Mike Brungardt.

Residents of De Soto are cautiously optimistic about the plant and keeping them informed is one of the biggest challenges, according to Mayor Rick Walker.

The city is working with partners throughout the Johnson County and the Kansas City region to improve the infrastructure and housing needs required to support the plant.

Jobs at the electric battery plant are expected to have a mid-range salary of $50,000 a year, attracting employees from across the Kansas City metro, Walker said.

"We'll maintain a small town feel and we'll do that by knowing our neighbors, taking care of our neighbors looking out for each other. And being involved in the community," he said.

  • Rick Walker, mayor, De Soto, Kan.
  • Mike Brungardt, city administrator, De Soto, Kan.
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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Elizabeth Ruiz is a freelance producer for KCUR’s Up To Date. Contact her at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz
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