Kokam America has made the final decision to make its permanent world headquarters in Lee’s Summit. The company has had its share of setbacks, but thanks to negotiations with the city of Lee’s Summit to get some of their million-dollar equipment eligible for tax abatement, the technology company has decided to make its home.
The building formerly housed the Serta mattress plant, but it will soon be used to manufacture high-tech batteries through a contract with the United States Department of Defense, among other uses. Don Nissanka, president of Kokam America said the company will manufacture a new generation of superior lithium polymer batteries smaller, lighter and much more energy efficient than traditional batteries.
Nissanka said Kokam owns the technology to manufacture a battery that would allow a car to run 150 miles on one charge. Nissanka said this battery is not bigger than a briefcase and to recharge it only costs about $1.50.
“That’s pretty good technology,” Nissanka said. “That’s the future.”
Nissanka said a combination of that battery and a small engine in a hybrid car would get 100 miles to the gallon.
“We are changing the way technology is looked at in the future,” he said.
He said Kokam is going to focus on high-end battery uses such as hybrid and electric cars, uses for the Department of Defense and medical devices like powering the artificial heart and portable ultrasound machines.
“We can get a cell phone battery to last 12 years but when’s the last time you replaced your cell phone battery? You replace the phone before the battery,” Nissanka said.
Nissanka said the lithium polymer battery should surpass the conventional lead acid battery used today by the year 2015.
“It’s a completely different way of looking at the product,” he said.
These batteries offer increased safety, a longer life and recharge and discharge the batteries much faster, Nissanka said.
He said these batteries also could operate at very cold temperatures.
Nissanka said Kokam is supposed to be up and running by May 1, 2008.
The plant is to be completed automated which means Kokam will be bringing in millions of dollars worth of machinery, but it also means Kokam can stay competitive with companies with plants in China or other countries where cheap labor is available.
Nissanka said with the automated plant will come the need for Kokam to hire skilled laborers with higher education. The machines will replace the need for cheap labor and allow for better jobs to stay in the United States.
“What’s happening with industry today is a sad story,” Nissanka said. “These companies move out of the to hire cheap labor and they don’t care about the environment. I take a different approach. Businesses should be responsible and competitive.”
Nissanka said Kokam will offer more than 200 jobs with salaries around $45,000 within the next two years.
“I am making sure your kids and my kids have jobs,” Nissanka said. “We work hard and learn hard to find out jobs are getting farmed out to China. This is not the future of our country.”
Kokam will hold its ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning at 10:30 a.m. Senator Kit Bond, R-Missouri, an active player in bringing Kokam to Lee’s Summit will join Nissanka and city officials for the ceremony.
Lee's Summit Journal, October 10, 2007 - Miranda Wycoff