resident Barack Obama visited Platte County’s Smith Electric Vehicles plant on Thursday as part of the administration’s wide ranging “Recovery Summer” tour of many of the stimulus projects funded by Recovery Act grants.
Of the $2.4 billion in Recovery Act funds earmarked last August for advanced battery and electric vehicle grants, Smith Electric Vehicles, a producer of all-electric, zero emissions commercial trucks who counts companies like Coca-Cola, Staples, and KCP&L among its customers, received $32 million.
Smith Electric Vehicles operates out of the former American Airlines/TWA Overhaul Base located off 112th St. near KCI in Platte County.
The president strolled into the room about 20 minutes earlier than expected and said, “Usually they announce me with some fancy thing, and I think I messed up–I just walked out here. So I hope you didn’t mind.”
He then expressed his appreciation for the work of attending figureheads, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, Senator Claire McCaskill, Congressmen Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri and Dennis Moore of Kansas and finally to “all the wonderful people at Smith Electric Vehicles and their energetic and outstanding staff.”
“You are doing more than producing new vehicles. You’re helping us to fight our way out of a vicious recession,” said Obama.
“This recession was a culmination of a decade of irresponsibility–a decade that felt like a sledgehammer hitting middle-class families. For the better part of 10 years, people have faced stagnant incomes, skyrocketing health care costs, skyrocketing tuition costs and declining economic security. And this all came to a head in a massive financial crisis that sent our economy into a freefall and cost eight million American jobs, including many in this community,” the president said.
Obama said that this situation forced his administration into some “difficult decisions at a moment of maximum peril” in the hopes of spurring private enterprise and laying the groundwork for economic recovery and future prosperity.
“One of those decisions was to provide critical funding to promising, innovative businesses like Smith Electric Vehicles,” said the president. “And because we did, there is a thriving enterprise here instead of an empty, darkened warehouse. Because of the grant that went to this company, we can hear the sounds of machines humming and people doing their work, instead of just the ghostly silence of an emptied-out building and the memory of workers who were laid off a long time ago.”
Obama cited several clean energy projects across the United States, such as Colorado-based solar panel producer, Abound Manufacturing, Abengoa Solar, with plans underway to build one of the world’s largest solar plants, Siemens Wind Power in Iowa, a battery technology company in North Carolina and Missouri-based Poet Biorefining, and said that a special focus on high-tech sectors like clean energy as well as research and development, small business loans and tax breaks help to capture the drive and innovative spirit of the American people.
He said that he expects energy investments to create 700,000 new jobs over the next few years.
“And this is not just going to boost our economy in the short term, this is going to lay a platform for the future. It’s going to create opportunities year after year after year, decade after decade after decade, as companies like Smith, that start small, begin to expand,” Obama said.
“I’ll give you another example. Just a few years ago, America had the capacity to build only about two percent of the world’s advanced batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles like Smith’s–two percent, that was it. We account for 25 percent of the world’s economy and we were only making two percent of the world’s advanced batteries. But thanks to our new focus on clean energy and the work that’s taking place in plants like this one, we could have as much as 40 percent of the world’s market by 2015–five years. That means jobs. But that also means we’re going to have an expertise in a sector that’s just going to keep on growing all around the world for years to come. So all these efforts taken together are making a difference.”
The president promised better days for the American economy, but said that the hard times aren’t over just yet.
“What you’re proving is that if we hold fast to that spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation that’s always defined America, we’re not just going to emerge from this period of turmoil, we’re going to emerge stronger than we were before,” he said to the employees of Smith Electric Vehicles.
“You’re proving that as long as we keep on moving forward, nobody can stop us. And for that I want to thank you. You are setting a model for what we need to be doing all across the country.”
Following the president’s visit, Lloyd Smith, the executive director of the Missouri Republican Party issued a statement in which he said, “We’re glad the president is visiting Missouri, but it’s too bad that he won’t listen to ordinary Missourians. President Obama paints a rosy picture of the nation as he sees it from Washington, DC, but that only goes to show how out-of-touch he really is. The reality is that the Democrats’ stimulus package is failing, their health bill is unpopular and possibly unconstitutional and his cap-and-trade scheme would kill jobs for working families.”