The Li-MITLESS ENERGY Podcast: Building Nevada’s Lithium Loop 

As a founding member of the Nevada Battery Coalition (NBC), we are fully committed to helping grow and expand the battery industry in the state of Nevada. With a goal to close the lithium supply chain loop, we joined alongside other key players to advance the future of the battery industry. To chat about the history and future of the NBC, Caleb Cage and Jackie Pierrott of Arc Dome Strategies joined us for an episode of the Li-MITLESS ENERGY Podcast.  

Unveiling Nevada’s Energy Potential with the Nevada Battery Coalition

The Nevada Battery Coalition (NBC) is a trade association working to strengthen Nevada’s position in the battery supply chain. Collaborating with companies across the supply chain, the NBC advocates for workforce development and industry promotion. Since March of 2023, the NBC has grown to include 20 members that represent essential stakeholders that will play a pivotal role in closing the lithium supply chain loop in Nevada. By informing the public and private sectors about economic, environmental, and national security issues affecting the battery supply chain, the NBC is working to capitalize on Nevada’s resources and position the state as a leader in battery technology in North America. 

In this episode of the Li-MITLESS ENERGY Podcast, Caleb Cage and Jackie Pierrott, President and Vice President of Arc Dome Strategies, join host Dr. Denis Phares. Together, they delve into the inception of the NBC and its achievements over the past year, including membership growth and engagement with federal and state governments. Caleb and Jackie emphasize the importance of infrastructure development, workforce training, and private investment in advancing the battery industry in Nevada. Along with Dr. Phares, they share the future goals for the NBC and its role in shaping Nevada’s economy and workforce in the coming years. 

Listen to the full episode or watch the recording on our YouTube channel and be sure to keep up with the Nevada Battery Coalition on  their website!  

Podcast Transcript 

Denis Phares  0:16   

Welcome to the Li-MITLESS ENERGY podcast. It’s my pleasure today to welcome Caleb Cage and Jackie Pierrott of Arc Dome Strategies; President and Vice President of Arc Dome Strategies. But the reason we’re here today is because Arc Dome is the contracted Executive Director of the Nevada Battery Coalition. So, welcome. 

Caleb Cage  0:34   

Thank you so much, Denis. It’s nice to be here. 

Jackie Pierrott  0:36 

Thank you so much. 

Denis Phares  0:37   

Well, Dragonfly is a member, a founding member of the Nevada Battery Coalition. We’re very proud of that. So, let’s just start off by talking about the NBC. Jackie, why don’t you tell me how it got started and the mission?  

Jackie Pierrott  0:50   

So, the NBC is a trade association composed of companies along the whole battery supply chain who work to inform the public and private sector regarding economic, environmental, and national security issues impacting the battery supply chain in order to strengthen Nevada’s position as a leading battery center in North America. The NBC came about through conversations within the lithium industry from companies who were seeing the opportunity to collaborate to advocate for workforce development and industry promotion. We became incorporated March of last year, so we’re coming up on a year here soon. And, to date, we’ve had the pleasure to work with 20 companies, 20 members. 

Denis Phares  1:39   

Spanning the entire supply chain, we’re talking minds, processors, recyclers, of course, cell manufacturers, Dragonfly, so, I do remember the origins of the conversations to start, I think this was particularly within Lithium Americas. Is that right that it started? 

Caleb Cage  1:59   

Yes. So, Tim Crowley with Lithium Americas, Lithium Nevada at the time, really convened to the group and introduced me to it. I remember those early Zoom calls where we got to talk, and meet over Zoom, and just talk about what we wanted to do as an organization and whether there was interest in having an organization of this type here, a trade association. And I think that was November of 2022 when those conversations really began, well, when I started participating in those conversations. And then, and then we really started working on the administrative end of standing up to the organization in 2023. 

Denis Phares  2:41   

And how did you get involved? Was it Tim who actually reached out to you?  

Caleb Cage  2:45   

Yeah, it’s funny. I started Arc Dome Strategies after 15 years in the state government, and five years in the military before that, and have worked with Jackie almost the entire time I’ve been in state government and just have huge respect for her. But she and I weren’t working together yet.  

Denis Phares  3:06 

In the state of Nevada, right? 

Caleb Cage  3:07 

In the state of Nevada. Yes. And Tim and I had coffee one morning and talked about the need for this. And he said he’d been having some conversations around it, and I said I was interested in being a part of it. And it just sort of happened organically there that way. But there was a lot of interest; Dragonfly, and Lithium Americas, and Nevada Energy, Ioneer. A lot of the founding members like yourself saw the value in having an organization like this and really allowed it to happen. 

Denis Phares  3:44   

Sure. Well, the motivation here, especially for the state, is we’ve got such an important resource here in such an important burgeoning industry like lithium-ion batteries. How does the state best benefit? It’s not just for the companies, but you want to keep everything local, right? 

Caleb Cage  4:03   

Yeah. So, I would say building that, closing the lithium loop is the language we hear so often from leaders around the state. And, frankly, nationally, there’s a lot of talk of offshoring this industry back to the United States. And we believe that that’s the case and we think we can make the case that Nevada is the best place to do that. We have companies like yours that are here. There’s, obviously, the mineral resources in the ground here, which many other states can’t claim. And as well as many other industry leaders who are here. 

Denis Phares  4:46   

So, let’s talk about the last year then. It started March 22. How has the year gone? Or is it March 22? Two years now. 

Caleb Cage  4:54   

March of 23 it started. Yeah. 

Denis Phares  4:57   

So, it’s been a year. 

Caleb Cage  4:59 

It’s been a year. Yeah. 

Denis Phares  5:02 

Has the membership been increasing? Have you gotten some response from the state? What’s evolved?  

Caleb Cage  5:07   

Yeah. So, Jackie may have something to add to this. Jackie joined the company in April of last year when we were in the middle of the legislative session, and those sorts of things. We started with about 17 members early on in halfway into 2023. We did a soft announcement at a summit at a conference in Reno, that you and your team were at as well. And did a couple of panel discussions there that you were a part of. That was really good. And then, from there, it was just a matter of getting everything administratively in place. And so, we finished out last year, we were incorporated, we had bylaws, we had levels of membership. So, we had I think it’s 17, 18 members last year, and elected our board officers as well. And in addition to that, we did a number of events. And I’ll let Jackie talk about some of those events here in a moment. But we did a number of events to talk about who we are and what we were doing. But, yeah, we ended about 17 members, rather, and Jackie can tell you about where we are today.  

Jackie Pierrott  6:28   

Yeah, so again, 20 members now, very exciting to work with these different companies along the whole battery supply chain. It’s been great learning about what you guys do and how it all comes together. Most recently, we had the opportunity to have a roundtable discussion with Senator Cortez Masto, where our members had the opportunity to come together to talk about issues that they’re seeing. I’ll pivot to Caleb here in a minute, but infrastructure, water, transportation. So, we’ve held a number of smaller events and roundtables like that to bring our members together to talk about those things, it’s been really great. 

Denis Phares  7:11   

Yeah. It’s a daunting task when you think about it. We don’t have the infrastructure yet to really take advantage. The opportunity is there, but it’s a daunting task. And we are going to need help from, not just the state, but the federal government. So, how is that looking? Are you getting any sort of response from Washington? 

Caleb Cage  7:29   

Incredible response from Washington. I think the fact that Senator Cortez Masto was willing to come out and meet with our members. And we had about 15 of our members sitting around the room. We have some of our Southern Nevada members on Zoom and some in the room as well. That was an hour of the senior senator from the state of Nevada’s time to hear about our issues and talk about what she’s doing. I know there are some really exciting things that some of our member companies are working on with our federal partners, but when we reach out to the federal delegations, Senator Rosen’s office, Congressman Amodei’s office so far, and others, they’re all very responsive. They realize how important this industry is for the nation, and how well-positioned Nevada is to help lead it nationwide. And so, yeah, we’re in regular contact with the federal delegation. And I’ll say, with Governor Lombardo and his team as well, it’s really amazing that we’re in regular discussions with staff members, and chief of staff, and others about things that we’re working on and what to be involved in at the state, and they’re very receptive. They’re very encouraging. 

Denis Phares  8:51   

What’s the collective view of timeline? Because you’re talking about the establishment of highways, railways, water systems. How quickly can all of this realistically happen, do you think? 

Caleb Cage  9:02   

That is, I think, a question that a lot of people are asking. A lot of the infrastructure, especially roadways, and things like that, are tied to lands bill. And so, I know Washoe County right now is pursuing a lands bill and there’s a lands bill for Clark County that’s underway as well. And a lot of those considerations are a part of those discussions. So, when we talk to our members who are out at the Tri-Center out in Storey County, and one of the big issues that they advocate for often is Interstate 80 between Sparks and USA Parkway, just needing to be widened so all that traffic can… 

Denis Phares  9:45 

It’s always backed up.  

Caleb Cage  9:46 

It’s always backed up, yeah. I’ve had some long evenings waiting and waiting to get off on Sparks Boulevard or Vista coming back from central Nevada. So, those are things that are part of discussions in land bills. But it’s really a matter of what the scope of the infrastructure need is. We talk about water a lot in Nevada because we’re a desert here and water is a limiting resource for us. So, there are infrastructure needs associated with that. There’s transportation. There’s a lot, but there’s a lot of interest in addressing those things as well.  

Denis Phares  10:23   

So, both of you have background in state government. Are you anticipating that this is primarily going to be state-driven or federal-driven in terms of the establishment of infrastructure here in the state money-wise? 

Jackie Pierrott  10:38   

Yeah. And I’ll turn this over to Caleb, but I would say it depends on, specifically, what we’re talking about. 

Caleb Cage  10:46   

Yeah. If you’re talking about federal highways, then there’s going to be a lot of federal transportation grants and infrastructure grants. And I think if you talk to… We had senator Cortez Masto last week and a lot of folks were talking about how important the IRA was in developing their product and what they do from our members standpoint. So, I think there’s going to be an awful lot that that’ll come from federal grants or federal dollars, but I think that the state’s interested in benefiting from this industry as well and recognizes the need for investment as well. So, it’ll be a mix. 

Denis Phares  11:30   

Well, as a private company turned public, we often worry about investment, private investment, and investment from the public markets. So, there’s going to be, obviously, within the companies, a lot of investment coming in, in addition to the public investment. How does that work synergistically? How do you increase the private and public investment that comes in? 

Caleb Cage  12:00   

It’s a great question. I think it’s a great challenge that we see a lot and we discuss a lot with our members because Dragonfly is no different. An awful lot of our members are entrepreneurial endeavors that have grown to the level of being public or aiming to go public at some point in the future. And just getting private investment, Ioneer received a federal loan from the Department of Energy. I know there are others who are pursuing those DOE loans as well. You have Lithium Americas that signed a deal with Chevrolet. I think it was about $600 million or $650 million deal with Chevrolet for their off-put for… 

Denis Phares  12:52 

For GM [Inaudible 12:53] 

Caleb Cage  12:53 

I said Chevrolet. You’re right, GM. Thank you. And to make sure they were supplying their resource to that company. So, there’s some opportunity there. But when you talk to our members, I think you’ll hear opportunities for private investment are a limiting factor. Infrastructure is a limiting factor. And then there are limitations within the supply chain itself like cathode manufacturing is something we hear a lot about. And you’ve talked a lot about it over time, about how we represent the whole supply chain, but we have that gap. 

Denis Phares 13:40 

We lack some things. Yeah. 

Caleb Cage 13:40 

We need to build that as well. 

Denis Phares  13:40   

That GM deal was pretty mind-blowing, I think. This was $650 million, not for lithium, but for the right to buy lithium. I guess that just goes to show how valuable a resource it is. But what does a deal like that do for the state? Does this mean that lithium is leaving the state, or, is this a doubling down on the state of Nevada, do you think? 

Caleb Cage  14:11   

So it’s a good question. And, in fact, I was asked this question the other day as well. We want Nevada to have the most benefit from our position in the market as the only state in the nation that has companies representing each of the seven stages of the lithium supply chain. The only state in the nation that has the only active lithium mining operation in the country, and two more that are on its heels, and having 20 companies here that are along the lithium supply chain. And that’s not all of the companies, those are just the ones that are members of our group. We think Nevada has an incredible opportunity to lead in this space, and our economic development partners agree with us there. But there’s a national interest associated with onshoring, this process, because of the market competition with China. And so, there’s a national drive to onshore it to the United States, our job is to say, “And Nevada is the best place for this growth to happen.” But other states are out there. Arkansas just announced that they’re doing a lithium summit or lithium conference of some sort coming up, this will be their first one. Later this year, they’re very interested because they have the resource there as well. So, we would like to keep it here, although from our earliest conversations, we know that there will be regional relationships with Arizona, and Utah, and California, and probably Idaho at some point, given sort of the map of the resources in the state of Nevada. That’ll be a critical position for us. And also, we have 20 private companies, and these companies are going to expand where it’s beneficial for them to expand, whether that’s to other states or other parts of the world. And speaking of other parts of the world, if we can have partnerships with countries like South Korea that can fill parts of our supply chain in Nevada, where we may have gaps, then I think those are things that we can pursue, and those are discussions we’ve had. 

Denis Phares  16:36   

Sure. Yeah, it does make sense to onshore a lot of that stuff, even if it is with companies that are foreign. But I would say the danger is that we tend to run to Asia, and use Asian technology rather than developing our own technology. Of course, I’m speaking from the heart here. So, we are trying to deploy American technology, and it is formidable to compete against a country like China, for example, who have really perfected the art of scale-up, of course, without the constraints of environmental regulations, and labor laws, and that sort of thing. So, it’s not a fair playing field, and that’s why it’s so important, I think, to support American innovation, but I guess that’s just a larger question. But you’re right, I think, in general, the opportunity is here, and we just need to seize it whenever we can. And we’re time-limited, like, we got to get going. Whoever is here, we’ve got to build roads, we got to build the infrastructure to actually make it happen. So yeah. I’m personally excited about the entire situation, the opportunity. I really appreciate the work that you guys do at NBC. So, let me just ask, what were you doing before when you were working with the state? How did that translate over to… Because I assume it wasn’t with lithium, specifically. 

Caleb Cage  18:13   

Jackie, go ahead. 

Jackie Pierrott  18:14   

So, I spent 10 years working for the state in various departments. I had the pleasure of working with Caleb when we worked for Governor Sandoval, and that’s where we met about 10 years ago. So, I’ve known Caleb for a long time. I worked in eight different departments, specifically doing Budget and Management Analyst work, and just different roles within the state. Then Caleb started Arc Dome Strategies, and I felt it was time to do something a little bit different. So, that’s when I started with Arc Dome. 

Denis Phares  18:55   

So Arc Dome has, for me, it sounds like a unique position of a contracted executive directorship. Is that pretty common in these sorts of setups? 

Caleb Cage  19:06   

There are a fair number of trade associations in the state of Nevada where they will bring in a government affairs firm like ours to run their day-to-day operations. It’s not uncommon. And, to be clear, we’re not contracted yet. So, I don’t want to overstate it.  

Denis Phares 19:22 

You’re working like you are. 

Caleb Cage 19:24 

We’re working like we are. We’re very close, and I think everybody’s on the same page. But that conversation happens next week, and I don’t want to jinx it. 

Denis Phares  19:35   

Yeah. Okay. Well, let’s move on then. So, you worked under Governor Sandoval, which, obviously, great friend of ours. We had him on the podcast, and now the President of the University. What are the associations between NBC and the local universities and community colleges? Is there anything going on there in terms of partnerships? 

Caleb Cage  20:01   

Yeah. Well, I am a student there, and I was walking between classes and saw the President earlier today before coming on here. But that’s an informal association. More formally, we work with Western Nevada College, Truckee Meadows, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada State University, and others. Of course, I worked with the system of higher education before going out on my own as one of the jobs I did working for state government. So, where we want to be with these groups, and there are a couple of touch points. So, University of Nevada’s University Center for Economic Development, UCED, is pursuing the tech hub grant, which I know you’re aware of and familiar with. Fred Steinman has just done an incredible job of putting together this application, him, and his team, by the end of February. And so we’re really excited about that, that could be tens of millions of dollars that would be invested into this industry here in Northern Nevada. They’re also pursuing a National Science Foundation grant. Dr. Gautam, the Vice President of Research and Innovation, is pursuing that, again, which would bring tens of millions of dollars here to Northern Nevada. So, we’re engaged there. We’re also engaged with Nevada Works, which is the local Workforce Development Board here serving 13 counties in Northern Nevada.  

Denis Phares  21:30 

That’s an important part of the infrastructure. 

Caleb Cage  21:42 

Huge part of it. And they’re setting up an industry sector council to coordinate the workforce needs of what we have. And, through there, we’re working Truckee Meadows or Western Nevada College, having those conversations about what their needs are. Great Basin, because they do so much in mining in the mining center of excellence that they’re developing. So, just really trying to identify the needs of workforce development and find those formal mechanisms that we can plug into, whether it’s a grant, or a sector council, or some other thing that we haven’t thought of yet in order to make sure our member organizations, our member companies can say, “Hey, we need this type of science to be taught, and it’s not being taught,” or, “We need HR people,” or whatever the needs are, we can help facilitate those.  

Denis Phares  22:36   

Great. Yeah, well, we recruit heavily from the university. So, we expect, outside of the silver peak buying that’s been active for a long time, we expect Ioneer, Lithium Americas, to start getting lithium out of the ground… 2026, 2027? So, what does the NBC look like in 2030? 

Caleb Cage  23:00   

Oh, that’s a great question. It’s funny, we had a board meeting earlier today, and we talked about moving from the first-year administrative stage of getting all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed in the first year, to really starting to do that visioning of what we’re going to look like going forward. I think, as an industry, we will be a larger industry organization. I think that’s fair to say. I think we will have a more significant role in Nevada’s economy, and even more important, people will understand the significant role that the entire lithium supply chain, whether it’s your company, or Lithium Americas, Pioneer, Albemarle, one of these. Any upstream, midstream or downstream, how significant of a role this plays. And I think that’s going to benefit us in terms of advocacy. I think it’s going to benefit us in terms of recruiting companies, helping our economic development authorities recruit companies. And I think it’s going to improve our position with the system of higher education, which is training a lot of the workforce as well. 

Denis Phares  24:21   

Great. Well, on that note, I think we’re gonna have to have you back and talk about progress.  

Caleb Cage  24:26 

Okay. 

Denis Phares  24:27 

Maybe after a year or so. So, Caleb Cage and Jackie Pierrott, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. 

Caleb Cage  24:32   

Thank you so much. 

Denis Phares  24:33   

Thank you for listening to the Li-MITLESS ENERGY podcast. Be sure to subscribe on any of your favorite podcast platforms. 

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