Obama stops off in Ohio

President-elect talks to workers about job creation

January 17, 2009|By John McCormick | John McCormick,Chicago Tribune

BEDFORD HEIGHTS, Ohio - Campaigning for the top priority of his presidency, Barack Obama pitched his economic recovery plan yesterday by using an old-economy plant now finding new business in alternative energy.

Obama's stop at Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Co. came the day before he starts a weekend of activities - including his train trip from Philadelphia to Washington - leading up to his inauguration Tuesday as the 44th president.

Ahead of all the partying, Obama sought to show he is in touch with the economic plight of Americans, as he pushed his plan for more than $800 billion in new spending and tax cuts.

"It's not too late to change course - but only if we take dramatic action as soon as possible," he said. "The way I see it, the first job of my administration is to put people back to work and get our economy moving again."

The nonunion shop that was his backdrop has about 65 employees and makes screws and bolts used in wind turbines. Its products are also in the Statue of Liberty and Golden Gate Bridge.

Obama cautioned of tough times ahead as he works to build public support for his proposal and lobby congressional Democrats and Republicans.

"Things will get worse before they get better," he told about 150 workers and invited guests gathered on a chilly plant floor. "I want everybody to be realistic about this."

Obama has argued that his plan would create nearly 500,000 jobs tied to boosting the nation's alternative energy supply. Those are part of a goal of 3 million to 4 million jobs he says could be saved or created by 2010 under his recovery proposal.

The campaign-style stop in suburban Cleveland was the first of several planned for the early days of Obama's administration, as he pushes Congress for passage by the Presidents Day break in mid-February.

Obama pitched the economic downturn as an opportunity to invest in the future.

"We've seen old factories become new clean-energy producers," he said. "Our scientists and engineers are hard at work developing cars that use less gas, homes and appliances that require less energy, schools and offices that are greener and more efficient than ever before."

The president-elect warned against delays in approving his plan.

"If we don't act now, because of the economic downturn, half of the wind projects planned for 2009 could wind up being abandoned," he said. "Think about all the businesses that wouldn't come to be, all the jobs that wouldn't be created, all the clean energy that we wouldn't produce."

House Democrats unveiled a spending and tax cut plan Thursday that includes $550 billion for infrastructure, science, energy and education programs over two years, as well as $275 billion for tax cuts for individuals and businesses.

Obama's visit to the family-owned company came the day after the Senate passed legislation to give him access to the second half of a previously OK'd $700 billion financial bailout fund.

Like many Rust Belt states, Ohio is suffering higher unemployment than the 7.2 percent average rate reported nationwide in December.

Cardinal is the kind of company Obama wants to see boosted by his stimulus plan. On its own, it has added about 15 jobs since it started making parts for the wind industry two years ago.

With 2.6 million jobs lost nationally last year - the largest number since 1945 - Obama made the point of counting every job, even the two added by the company this past week.

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