Kentucky Continues Auto Sector Business Growth

by Devin Katayama on January 17, 2012

Kentucky officials expect to continue its partnership with Argonne National Laboratories when it opens facilities in Lexington later this year to develop rechargeable car battery technology.

“It fits in very well with where we understand where Toyota and Ford Motor want to move with future vehicles,” said Len Peters, secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet.

Last week, Gov. Steve Beshear, joined by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, visited the Detroit Auto Show and met with Ford executives. While Ford’s $1.2 billion investment at the Louisville Assembly Plant is being called one of the best economic development deals of 2011 by trade magazine Business Facilities, Kentucky has made further efforts to become a leader in the automotive industry with its decision to extend operations with U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratories.

Kentucky is now preparing to open facilities in Lexington that will develop rechargeable battery technology, primarily for use in electric cars, said Peters. The partnership isn’t necessarily to attract science and research jobs, but to attract business like Ford Motors that finds Kentucky to be a smart investment, he said.

“From our prospective it is very important that we provide science and technology that will be supportive of industry in the state. And those industries in the state right now are very, very much oriented toward the automotive industry,” he said.

Argonne projects have been operating out of Kentucky already, but the new facilities will increase involvement from the states two major universities, which have already partnered with Argonne, and open up further opportunities that didn’t exist before, Peters said.

The partnership is funded on a project by project basis and despite likely cuts to several departments in this year’s budget, the facilities will open in spring, he said.

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