Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Secretary Buttigieg Remarks at EV Battery Plant Site - DeSoto, Kansas

Monday, February 27, 2023

Well, thanks so much first of all to Representative Davids for your friendship, for your leadership. She is somebody who you should know is relentlessly -- whether it's, you know, naturally in the flow of conversation or not -- is relentlessly advocating for this district and for this community. She has been a leader in infrastructure from the moment that she got to Washington, and she's somebody who we turn to to find solutions, especially those bipartisan solutions that help get things done. 

And her support for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, for the CHIPS and Science Act, for the Inflation Reduction Act, are all part of what makes it possible for us to now be going around the country celebrating big wins in infrastructure and celebrating big wins when it comes to good-paying American manufacturing jobs, like the ones that are going to happen right here... just as soon as we're done with these good-paying construction jobs that we're celebrating with our union friends here from the building trades, who are doing such great work to make this happen. Thank you -- and no pressure getting this thing done on time, on budget, and on task.

To Alan Swann and everybody with Panasonic Energy North America, we thank you so much. This is one of the most innovative companies in Japan, one of the U.S.'s greatest allies. And now right here on American soil, with American workers, doing incredibly important work to help combat climate change and create jobs at the same time. So, thank you for believing in the U.S. and in our workers.

And I want to thank once again the workers and the unions represented here for the skill and the hard work that's going to build something that is transformational and foundational for the future of this community. 

I want to recognize and thank Lieutenant Governor Toland, we were just together celebrating the opening at KCI, and now celebrating good news here. And I know that his leadership and Governor Kelly's leadership -- the focus on education and quality of life, and certainly the understanding of the importance of infrastructure, is a big part of why Kansas was able to successfully land this effort. 

And I would add that our Federal Highway Administrator was with the Governor just this month, groundbreaking the project on U.S. 69, which is going to improve safety, reduce congestion, and is just one more example of transportation investments totaling over $1 billion that our department has been able to make to support Kansas. 

To Mayor Walker and my fellow former mayor, Chairman Kelly, thank you for your bipartisan work to make these communities better off. That local leadership on the ground is so essential to getting this done. I’ve got to say, I would have loved in my mayor days to have a $4 billion piece of good news. So, you are the envy of a lot of communities. 

And I want to say, seeing these kinds of good-paying auto-related jobs emerging in the American heartland is very personal to me. Because I grew up in South Bend, Indiana, literally in the shadow of a factory that belonged to the Studebaker Auto Company that had been silent for 20 years before I was even born. We considered it massive; it's about one-sixth of the size of what's going to happen here in terms of square feet. 

And so, I saw firsthand what it can mean to a community to have these good-paying auto jobs and what it can mean to a community to lose them. And so 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. 

And so now, seeing those jobs coming back, seeing those jobs grow here in Kansas and at new auto and auto-related plants in Indiana, in Michigan, in Louisiana, and South Carolina, and Tennessee, and Georgia, and Nevada and more and more places around the country, demonstrates that this really is a new and stronger era for American manufacturing. For which we, so far, have to show 800,000 manufacturing jobs created in this country since President Biden took office. And it's only going to grow as plants like this one come online. 

We are bringing EV costs down and the number of jobs in EV manufacturing up, at the same time. 

And that didn't just happen by chance. 

Policies on EV infrastructure and policies on supporting American manufacturing are driving this American renaissance.

Ask any global company in the EV supply chain why they are choosing to open a new facility in the U.S. and you will hear about the investments that we're making -- the infrastructure law, the climate and jobs law, and other good policies as among the decisive factors. 

And Panasonic is a fantastic example of what is possible here. 

President Biden has often pointed out that when we build these supply chains in America, our allies and partners are building them alongside us. So, we are so glad and thankful for the partnership of Panasonic. 

I just got a look at this "field of dreams" as the President might say, one that, when it opens, will be one of the largest EV manufacturing battery facilities in the world. And, of course, what the construction workers on this site are building isn't just a factory. They're building livelihoods... for themselves, for their families, for their communities, and for the 4,000 workers who will then put food on the table and put their kids through school working on the assembly lines that will take shape behind where I'm standing. 

When this is done, 4,000 workers will be part of a new generation in American auto manufacturing, carrying forward into this century a legacy that brought so many people into the middle class in the first place during the last one. 

But this is not our grandparents' kind of manufacturing facility. 

This is advanced manufacturing that is going to put us at the front of the global race for the jobs of the future. 

I want to be clear that these jobs will require enormous technical ability and skill, but they will not necessarily require a four-year university degree. So many of the workers we've seen in EV battery plants around the country -- often making six figures -- do not necessarily have college degrees. Some of them were working in retail or service jobs for lower pay, then got technical training, like what Panasonic is doing with Johnson County Community College, in order to get on that ladder up into the middle class. 

I also want to lift up the bipartisan work of leaders like Governor Kelly, Governor Kemp I would add in Georgia, Mayor Walker, others who recognize what's so clear to workers here, which is that in the long run, EVs will be remembered not as a front in an invented culture war between red and blue America -- but as a front in the very real global competition with countries like China for the future of manufacturing.

And building EVs well is one of the best ways we can make sure that the U.S. and our friends win that race. 

It can be frustrating in Washington to see some people willing to take potshots at good jobs for their own constituents by opposing EV manufacturing. But as the President has said, and demonstrated, our administration works for every American and we're going to take every opportunity to bring more good-paying EV manufacturing jobs across the country. 

We want to make sure every American has the opportunity to participate in this economy, to be part of building electric vehicles, and, to have the choice of buying and driving electric vehicles -- which is why we're working to bring the upfront cost of an EV down and bringing chargers to every part of the country. 

So let me end just where I started, which is again, as a son of the industrial Midwest, this rebirth of American manufacturing is something that I think we will be proud of for the rest of our lives. It means people like people in the community I grew up in, people of every race and background, people of every educational level, will have an opportunity to get in on this new economy without getting out of the communities that produced them. 

What we see underway here in DeSoto, a former army plant and remediated superfund site being turned into an advanced manufacturing facility that will employ thousands, this is what it looks like as President Biden's vision for new American manufacturing comes to life.

Again, I want to thank everybody who is part of this. I'm going to be watching closely because this is an aggressive project timeline which I have every confidence will be met, and I can't wait to see how it's going to go at the ribbon cutting and beyond. 

Thanks so much for the chance to be here and congratulations to everybody who's part of this effort.