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Panasonic rebuffs Oklahoma again, won't build EV battery plant in Pryor

An aerial photo of the MidAmerica Industrial Park.
MidAmerica Industrial Park
An aerial photo of the MidAmerica Industrial Park.

A global company has once again decided against building an electric vehicle battery plant near Tulsa despite lawmakers offering a $698 million incentive package and funding millions of dollars in site improvements at the company’s request.

A Panasonic spokesperson said Friday that the company will not build a multibillion-dollar battery plant at Pryor’s MidAmerica Industrial Park.

“In April 2023, we entered into an agreement with the state of Oklahoma to explore building a factory in the state, with the understanding that we would make a decision about whether or not to move forward at the end of that exploratory process,” Panasonic spokesperson Alison Klooster said in an email. “After careful deliberations, we have made the decision not to move forward with developing the site.”

Klooster did not say why the company is no longer considering Pryor. Decisions about where to build new facilities are complex and based on a wide range of factors, she said.

Oklahoma officials have been trying to lure Panasonic to the state since at least 2022. Panasonic announced plans last year to locate a new, $4 billion-dollar electric vehicle plant in Kansas, but the company then explored the possibility of building a second plant in Pryor that could have resulted in 3,500 new jobs.

State lawmakers put together a $698 million incentive package for the company in an attempt to close the deal.

After Panasonic requested $245 million in site work at the MidAmerica Industrial Park, lawmakers appropriated $145 million this year for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to fund facility upgrades and infrastructure and safety improvements at the park.

“The Legislature provided that which was requested by the executive branch to win the commitment of Project Ocean,” House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said in a statement, referencing the codename given to the proposed Panasonic project. “Oklahoma remains open for business, and we are excited about the economic development advancement we have recently seen in our state, including the 1,500 job manufacturing facility under construction by Enel.”

House Appropriations and Budget Committee Chairman Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, told lawmakers in May that if the Panasonic deal didn’t pan out, funding improvements at the MidAmerica Industrial Park could help the state land a different mega-manufacturing project.

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said the incentive package offered to Panasonic required the company to hit certain spending and employment thresholds before receiving any funds.

In the spring, Treat formed a select legislative committee on business retention and economic development after the state found out it lost a bid to land a Volkswagen battery plant. The committee is exploring possible policy changes that could make Oklahoma more attractive to businesses.

“I’m thankful that Panasonic strongly considered Oklahoma,” Treat said in a statement. “I also appreciated their objective global perspective on some of Oklahoma’s strengths.”

The Governor’s Office expressed optimism that the state could still work with Panasonic on a future economic development project.

“Panasonic had already chosen to go to Kansas last year,” according to a statement from Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office. “We would have been thrilled had both parties been able to sign an agreement earlier to expand here to Oklahoma when market conditions were stronger, but hopefully we can find another opportunity to partner with them in the future.”

Oklahoma Department of Commerce spokesperson Becky Samples said the agency looks forward to future opportunities to partner with the company.

The agency also remains focused on other economic development endeavors, she said.

“We will continue to foster current opportunities in our pipeline and remain committed to helping our existing companies in Oklahoma grow and expand,” she said in a statement.

Klooster, the Panasonic spokesperson, said the company’s decision not to expand its operations to Oklahoma will not impact its electric vehicle battery operations in Kansas or Nevada.

Oklahoma Voice is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oklahoma Voice maintains editorial independence.

Carmen covers state government, politics and health care for Oklahoma Voice. A Norman native, she previously worked in Arizona and Virginia before she began reporting on the Oklahoma Capitol.
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