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Updated: May 1, 2023 / Power 50 for 2023

2023 Power 50: Mike O’Kronley

Mike O'Kronley smiles Photo | Courtesy of Ascend Elements Mike O'Kronley CEO of Ascend Elements in Westborough
Mike O’Kronley Title CEO Company Ascend Elements, in Westborough Residence Novi, Michigan, and Westborough, Mass. College University of Michigan Read all the 2023 Power 50 profiles here
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Electric cars are coming, and there’s no stopping them. Well, maybe if there’s not enough of the precious metals used to make lithium batteries that EVs run on. That’s where Ascend Elements and O’Kronley come in.

The Westborough company has begun to form partnerships around the globe with the likes of Honda Motor Co., the South Korean battery company EcoPro Group, and Waltham-based Koura Global on various projects to grow its lithium-recycling business. On top of that, O’Kronley has been at the helm of the company as it opened North America’s largest EV battery recycling facility with its $43-million plant in Covington, Georgia, on March 30 and broke ground on a $1-billion plant in Kentucky.

Under Mike O’Kronley’s leadership, Ascend closed $300 million in a funding round in 2022, and the company received more than $480 million grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, where O’Kronley participated in a press conference with President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. With all of that capital, Ascend has become a vital player in the U.S. economy, tying itself to the emerging EV technology market by making itself invaluable as a company that can recycle and reuse expensive and hard-to-procure materials necessary to build the batteries for these vehicles.

How should professionals best use the power they wield? “We need to recognize sustainability as an opportunity for business growth. We need to move from a consumer mindset to a conservation mindset. Instead of using resources once and throwing them away, we need to create business models that succeed when resources are reused and repurposed.”

A deadly skill: O’Kronley is adept at ax throwing.

Read all the 2023 Power 50 profiles here.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly transposed the investment amounts for Ascend Elements' two main facilities. The correct figures are the Kentucky plant will receive $1 billion in investment while the Georgia facility will have $43 million.

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