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Japanese report: Panasonic wants to build electric vehicle battery plant in Kansas or Oklahoma

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Japanese electronics company Panasonic wants to buy land in Kansas or Oklahoma to build a multibillion-dollar factory to supply Tesla with lithium-ion batteries, according to reporting from Japan public broadcaster NHK.

The states are being considered, according to the report, because they are close to Texas, where Tesla is preparing a new electric vehicle plant.

Panasonic and Tesla have partnered for some time. Both companies operate a “gigafactory” outside Reno, Nevada.

Panasonic also reached an agreement in October with electric vehicle start-up Canoo to supply batteries for its lifestyle vehicle. Canoo announced last year that it plans to build a factory at the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, creating at least 1,500 jobs.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, through a spokesman, declined to comment Friday on the Japanese report on plant sites.

On Feb. 22, however, he did say officials are trying to lure a huge company to eastern Oklahoma, a confirmation that followed a Kansas City Star report that said Oklahoma is battling Kansas for an electric vehicle battery factory.

The Kansas Legislature recently approved $1.2 billion in economic development incentives in an effort to bring the plant to that state.

The Oklahoma site under consideration is MidAmerica Industrial Park, according to the Star.

The Mayes County Board of Commissioners is examining whether to establish a tax increment financing district on 700 acres of undeveloped MidAmerica Industrial Park land, the Tulsa World reported last month. David Stewart, chief administrative officer of the park, projects that private investment in the TIF, if approved, would be $5 billion to $6 billion over the first five years.

Tesla and Oklahoma have a history.

In another push to lure Tesla to Tulsa, the Route 66 Alliance is sharing this video of local historian and author Michael Wallis, who voiced the Sheriff in Pixar's movie "Cars." He tells how Tulsa's history is entwined with Route 66, and why Tesla coming to Tulsa is the next chapter in our story.

Tulsa reportedly was a finalist in 2020 for the CyberTruck Gigafactory that went to Austin, Texas. Oklahoma’s governor said that year following Tesla’s decision to pick Texas that Oklahoma ultimately will be able to capitalize on its showing.

“Even though we didn’t come out on top for Tesla, the effort so many people put into that project will pay great dividends for our state down the road,” Stitt said in August 2020. “Tesla took notice with how well we worked together, and I have a feeling we’ll be hearing from them again real soon.”

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The $5 million facility opened Monday afternoon on historic Route 66 near the Vinita exit from the Will Rogers Turnpike, where it will serve as a sort of tourist gateway to the Cherokee Nation and northeastern Oklahoma.

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