By Kansas City Business Journal

Dow Kokam on Friday unveiled a makeover of its Leeâ¿¿s Summit facility into a state-of-the-art research and development lab for lithium-ion batteries.

The company said the facility is designed to test new battery materials, and rapidly create and test prototypes. It also will continue to produce batteries, with a capacity to produce 33 megawatt hours of battery cells annually.

⿿It⿿s not just the quality of the product today,⿝ Dow Kokam CEO Ravi Shanker said, ⿿but the ability to deliver the products of tomorrow is critical.⿝

Dow Kokam, formed in 2009, is owned by The Dow Chemical Co., TK Advanced Battery LLC and Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault. The venture is working on a 400,000-square-foot plant in Michigan that will have the ability to scale up to 800,000 square feet.

Shanker said the Leeâ¿¿s Summit facility will play a key role in Dow Kokamâ¿¿s future because it combines an emphasis on research with the commercialization of its findings.

Jeff Kostos, vice president and general manager of Dow Kokam in Leeâ¿¿s Summit, said the local work force has doubled during the past two years. Although he would not give a number of employees at the plant, he said Dow Kokam has brought in 16 employees from outside the region since the beginning of the year.

The company has imported talent, he said, because it needs people with specific knowledge sets.

The Leeâ¿¿s Summit facility is ready for growth. Kostos said the 13,000-square-foot plant is designed to be doubled. That includes owning the property for an expansion and building common areas in the existing structure that will serve a larger facility.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said that government shouldnâ¿¿t do everything but that it should invest in research that is in the national interest. Finding ways to meet the nationâ¿¿s energy needs while reducing reliance on foreign energy sources is of huge importance, he said.

⿿Lee⿿s Summit is out front, and this means there is long-term commitment to complete the research and development that the government is trying to start,⿝ he said.

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