YOUNGSTOWN, OH (WOIO) - President Obama in the Youngstown area Tuesday afternoon to continue his tour of main street America.
Mr. Obama delivered remarks on the health of the nation's economy. The President toured V & M Star's factory, which manufactures pipe and tubing, before talking about the economy.
It is good to be back in Ohio, and it is good to be back in the Mahoning Valley. I appreciate the chance to tour this impressive facility and see some of the work you do here. I saw your 85-ton electric arc furnace. I didn't see any evidence, but I know you're building Iron Man's suits here somewhere.
I appreciate the chance to spend some time with all of you, too. It's always nice to get out of Washington for a day and spend some time with the people I work for, hearing your concerns and your hopes and your dreams. I've been trying to make a habit of that whenever the job allows. And obviously, the issue that's front and center on everyone's mind is the state of our economy.
You know, in the two years I was running for President, I was no stranger to this state. I saw firsthand what years of failed policies had done to working families here. And the Mahoning Valley is a place that doesn't need an economist to tell you when a recession begins or ends.
Plenty of folks here have known their own private recessions for thirty years – even if they haven't seen one like this, with an unemployment rate here at 14 percent and families having a tougher time than they'd ever imagined. Plenty of folks probably aren't impressed by another President swooping in to talk to you about the economy, either – not when the only headline they want to see is "you're hired."
But I do want to talk about a piece of encouraging news for a change – because for much of the last two years, we didn't always get to.
A year ago, we took significant action to jumpstart economic growth and job creation. That action included making investments in sectors with the greatest potential for private sector job growth – areas like clean energy and infrastructure.
One of those investments is going towards revitalizing the site next door, preparing it for new construction, and building a rail spur that connects to the Norfolk Southern line that runs through town. And as a result of that investment, V&M Star's parent company has decided to invest $650 million of its own into building a new one million square-foot mill right here in Youngstown – the largest industrial plant built in the Mahoning Valley since GM built its plant over in Lordstown in the 1960s. Right here, in the heart of the old steel corridor, where some never thought we'd see an investment like this again, they're placing their bet on American manufacturing and on this community.
That bet's going to pay off with 400 construction jobs after you break ground this summer; and 350 new manufacturing jobs once the mill comes online – doubling your current workforce. And, as you all know, every time a new factory or plant opens or expands in America, it becomes important to more people than the workers it employs – it becomes an economic lifeline to a community, capable of supporting dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of jobs indirectly. That's a success story you're all a part of.
Now, I don't want to suggest this one plant and the jobs it will create are going to make the difference for an entire community. But consider, for a moment, where we were just over a year ago. Our economy was shrinking. Our businesses were losing 750,000 jobs a month. Economists across the spectrum were seriously warning of another Great Depression. And all of this was on top of one of the toughest decades America's middle class has ever faced.
So, we had a choice to make. We could sit back, do nothing and watch America's decline – or we could stand up and fight for our future. Well, that's why I ran for President, Youngstown. Because I believed we were at a defining moment in our history. And if we were going to keep the American Dream alive in our time, we couldn't sit back and put off solving our problems any longer. We had to tackle them head on.
Job one was rescuing our economy. And that required some steps that were, frankly, unpopular – steps like stabilizing a financial system on the brink of collapse, and intervening in an auto industry on the brink of extinction. I knew those steps would be largely unpopular. I also knew that politics being what it is, some folks would try to score some political points off them.
But I think any fair-minded person would say that if we hadn't acted, more people in the Mahoning Valley, more people in Ohio, and more people across America would be out of work today. We know, for example, that the GM plant over in Lordstown wouldn't be there. GM would be defunct.
Instead, it's paying back its debts, turning a profit for the first time in three years, and a third shift is about to come back to work in Lordstown, putting that plant at max capacity. And today, my Administration is announcing a landmark agreement to help dozens of communities like Youngstown revitalize and redevelop old, shuttered GM facilities, preparing them for new industries, new jobs, and new opportunity.
These steps were the right things to do. And it was the right thing to do to give tax relief to small businesses and working families – 4.5 million working families in Ohio alone. It was the right thing to do to give loans to small businesses to keep their doors open – more than 2,400 in this state. It was the right thing to do to extend unemployment benefits and make COBRA cheaper for people caught up in the recession until they could get back on their feet. It was the right thing to do to help governors like Ted avoid massive cuts to Medicaid or layoffs of teachers and police officers. And it was the right thing to do to invest in this town's infrastructure. That's why we put all of that in the recovery package. It was the right thing to do.
Now, we've got a long way to go before this recovery is felt in the lives of all our neighbors and in all the communities that have lost so much ground in this recession and for years before.
But despite that sobering reality, and despite the naysayers in Washington, who look for the cloud around every silver lining; the fact is that our economy is growing again. Last month, we gained 290,000 jobs. That was the largest increase in four years and the fourth month in a row that we've added jobs – the vast majority of which were in the private sector. And last month also brought the largest increase in manufacturing employment since 1998, which is a positive sign for communities like Youngstown.
And you know what? I think those critics know it – these folks who opposed us every step of the way, predicting and even rooting for failure. Because even as they tried to score political points by attacking what we did, many of them went home and claimed credit for the very things they voted against. They show up and they cut the ribbons, and send the mailings home touting the very projects they opposed in Washington, and try to have it both ways. Imagine that in politics?
Here's the fact: If the just-say-no crowd had won out – if we had done things that way – we'd be in a deeper world of hurt. Families wouldn't have seen those tax cuts. Small businesses wouldn't have gotten those loans or the health care tax credits they're now eligible for. Insurance companies would still be choosing who to cover and when. The steady progress we are beginning to see across America just wouldn't exist. And neither would the plant you're about to build.
So I invite anyone who thinks we shouldn't have taken those actions or made those investments to come to places like this and tell us why. Come here and tell us why companies like this in towns like Youngstown shouldn't be given every chance to expand and add jobs. Tell us why small businesses shouldn't receive tax credits to help purchase health insurance for their employees; why seniors shouldn't receive help paying for their medications when they hit the donut hole; why children with preexisting conditions shouldn't be able to get insurance. Tell us why doing nothing would be better for America.
That's not how we deal with crisis. That's not how we became the greatest economic power the world has ever known. The United States of America doesn't play for second place. We step up. We face our challenges. We compete. And we win.
That's something on which we should all agree.
For all we've gotten done despite the unified, determined opposition of one party; just imagine how much farther along we could be if we worked together. And I truly believe it's not too late for us to work together – not when there's so much progress to make and so many more success stories like this to write. Because we're not Democrats or Republicans first – we're Americans first.
Youngstown, I know how tough it is out here. I know the future too often still feels uncertain. I won't stand here and pretend things are back to normal, or even close. I read too many letters each night from folks who are still hurting or out of work to believe that.
But I will tell you one thing: it is people like you and towns like this that are on my mind every day in the Oval Office. I will not rest until that future begins to brighten. And I am absolutely convinced that the steps we're taking will help bring about that better future for America.
I believe that seeking new markets for our exports and enforcing the rules of free and fair trade is the right thing to do for our workers and companies. I believe that investing in a clean energy economy to create the good jobs of the future is the right thing to do for our economy and our environment. I believe that raising standards in our schools, making college more affordable, and upgrading our community colleges is the right thing to do for our kids and their future. I believe that reforming our health care system to crack down on the worst practices of the insurance industry and lifting the burden of skyrocketing premium increases was the right thing to do for our families and businesses.
So we're going to keep up every effort to rebuild our economy and restore some security to the middle class – a middle class forged in plants just like this one – so that places like Youngstown don't just survive year after year, but thrive year after year. And as long as I have the privilege of being your President, I'm going to keep fighting for a future that is brighter for this community, for Ohio, and for the country we love.
God bless you and the work you're doing here, and God Bless the United States of America.
Youngstown is considered a "Rust Belt" city where steel manufacturing once thrived. But the city has long suffered from a declining economy and a shrinking population. The area has seen some success in recent years by creating high tech jobs.