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De Soto reacts to Panasonic announcement

Cautious optimism from those who live, work in Johnson County community set to host new EV-battery facility
De Soto Kansas
Posted at 4:40 PM, Jul 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-14 18:10:40-04

DE SOTO, Kan. — With the announcement of Panasonic's new electric vehicle battery manufacturing facility, the community of De Soto, Kansas, is reacting with cautious optimism.

"We’re such a small town, I don’t know if people are going to like it or not," said Lisa Welch, who has lived in De Soto her entire life.

She's seen considerable change and says the news of Panasonic’s arrival is a whole new level of change.

"It’s grown a lot since I graduated, they’re going to have to build different roads for the high school because they have problems with that anyway," Welch said. "The roundabout they put in to help, it’s just going to be a lot more traffic, I do believe."

KSHB 41 News brought those concerns regarding traffic and infrastructure to Mayor Rick Walker. He says there's a plan in place.

"KDOT is taking the lead on the transportation planning, the city has taken the lead on the utility infrastructure planning, but we've been working for months to put a plan together so that we can successfully integrate this without too many traffic headaches," Walker said.

With thousands of new jobs, there’s also concern about real estate.

"Prices are already getting high, and with a big investment like this, I feel like it might, and probably will, out-price a lot of the locals that have roots and foundations," said Rayne Schmidtberger, who lives in Lawrence and will soon move to Shawnee.

But Walker says he is not overly concerned as he does not expect all workers to move to his city.

"New employees won’t necessarily live in De Soto, this is going to draw folks from Topeka to Kansas City, even on the Missouri side," Walker said. "I’m certain we’ll see growth in our residential population, but I don’t think we’re going to see all of it, and we are planning and anticipating that growth as best we can."

New neighbors will arrive in a community with small, established local businesses.

"You don’t really know what the spending habits of the new people are going to be, it could be more negative stuff, but you hope they’re conscious of being in a whole new community and the impact and effect they’re going to have," Schmidtberger said.

Skepticism in the community is mixed with excitement.

"I’m optimistic," Welch said. "I’m just waiting. What’s going to happen with our town? It’s a lot more people coming to this town, so it’s going to grow tremendously."

The clock starts now on De Soto and Johnson County to prepare for Panasonic — the mayor's office told KSHB 41 it is their understanding the facility will be completed in 2024.