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Imperial County’s Lithium Valley Soars in 2023 with Transformative Developments

-Editorial

The County of Imperial is proud to announce a year full of significant achievements and developments of Lithium Valley. Monumental progress was made in 2023 in transforming the Salton Sea region into a global hub for lithium extraction and battery production. 

County efforts commenced in February with the Board of Supervisors’ approval of the Imperial Lithium Incentives Program. This program is designed to boost economic investments, expand employment opportunities, and enhance renewable energy availability within Imperial County. In the same month, County Board Chairman, Ryan E. Kelley, and Administration met with former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at a USC Schwarzenegger Institute roundtable to discuss the vast potential of Lithium Valley. 

March saw Governor Gavin Newsom visit Lithium Valley and acknowledge the progress in the renewable energy landscape. Chairman Kelley, Vice-Chairman Luis Antonio Plancarte, Supervisor John Hawk, and County Administration also traveled to Washington, D.C. to engage with federal policymakers, emphasizing the development of the local lithium extraction industry. Additionally, the Board opened a 60-day public comment period, inviting community suggestions for the potential allocations of Lithium Valley Tax Revenues. This initiative underscored the County’s commitment to considering the community’s voice in the development of Lithium Valley.  

In May, County officials joined Imperial Valley College and industry leaders in announcing the Lithium Industry Workforce Training Program, also known as LIFT. This initiative launched several specialized academic programs, including research partnerships and infrastructure development.  

June was marked by Chairman Kelley and County CEO Miguel Figueroa attending the Fastmarkets Lithium Supply and Battery Raw Materials Americans annual conference, the largest global forum for lithium and battery raw materials. This participation provided valuable insights and networking opportunities with battery material supply chain experts and professionals. 

July featured Chairman Kelley’s attendance at the National Association of Counties Annual Conference & Expo in Texas, enhancing Lithium Valley’s visibility and Imperial County’s influence. 

In August, the County welcomed Alejandra Y. Castillo, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, to Imperial County. This visit was pivotal for discussing future economic development opportunities. Chairman Kelley and Supervisor Jesus Eduardo Escobar also engaged in legislative meetings in Sacramento, including the Chairman’s testimony before the California Assembly Joint Hearing on California’s Lithium Economy. 

September’s highlight was the participation of Chairman Kelley and Jim Minnick, Imperial County Planning Director,in the American Planning Association’s California Conference in Fresno, where Lithium Valley’s development strategies were further refined and shared with conference attendees. 

The California Economic Summit in Indian Wells in October provided another platform for members of the Board and County Administration to network and discuss economic growth strategies for Lithium Valley. 

November was a landmark month for Imperial County and regional academic and economic development partners with the Lithium Valley Clean Tech Hub winning a half a million-dollar grant under the CHIPS and Science Act and marked a strategic investment in the region’s innovation and competitiveness. 

Lastly, December saw Lithium Valley selected as a finalist for the Economic Development Agency’s Distressed Area Recompete Grant. If received, this recognition promises to catalyze job creation and long-term employment pathways in Imperial Valley. County officials also participated in the Southern California Economic Summit and the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference in Los Angeles and San Diego, respectively, to further amplify our efforts to connect with wider networks and resources beneficial for Lithium Valley. 

Throughout the year, Lithium Valley gained notable media attention with coverage by Forbes, 60 Minutes, Los Angeles Times, KPBS, SF Gate, Electrek, CNBC, Politico, and a report from Berkeley Lab, highlighting the region’s vast lithium resources. 

“2023 built upon the successes of Imperial County’s local initiatives,” stated Chairman Kelley. “Four new geothermal energy plants and two new Lithium extraction facilities are in review or approved. These private investments are the beginning of what will be Lithium Valley. Our focus remains centered on the development and associated manufacturing here in Imperial County. The Imperial County Board of Supervisors and Administrators are working diligently on the overall plan for the betterment of all.” 

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