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Secretary Ray LaHood --Remarks as Prepared-- Visit to General Motors Flint, Michigan

Thank you, Mike [Robinson], for the wonderful introduction.  Thank you, Mayor [Dayne] Walling, for your gracious welcome to Flint, “the birthplace of General Motors.”  I know Congressman Kildee tried to be here, but is dealing with a family emergency, and so couldn’t make it.  But President Obama is grateful for his leadership on behalf of the auto industry in general -- and GM’s Flint plant in particular. 

And thank you, especially, to the hardworking men and women of the new GM.  Because you helped to turnaround this plant, you helped to turnaround your community.  Because you helped to turnaround your community, you’re helping to turn around your country.

Now, I’m mostly here to congratulate you on your enormous accomplishments of these last two years.  Today, each of the Big Three – GM, Chrysler, and Ford – is yielding a profit for the first time since 2004.    Each of the Big Three is adding shifts and creating jobs at the fastest rate since the 1990s. 

Here at General Motors, you’re once again designing, building, and selling some of the best cars in the world.  We’re very proud that GM is investing $2 billion in its U.S. plants – creating or protecting more than 4,000 jobs, at 17 facilities, in eight states.  In fact, across the country, GM plans to hire back every single one of its laid-off workers by the end of the year – every single one.    And, right here in Michigan, GM is expanding operations for the second time in six months – investing $109 million to add or keep almost 100 jobs.

There’s no doubt that the American economy – and the American workers who make it operate – continue to face significant challenges.  But think about where we were just two-and-a-half years ago.

When President Obama took office, we were facing the worst recession since the Great Depression – a recession that hit our auto industry particularly hard.   During the year before the president’s inauguration, this industry lost more than 400,000 jobs. In the span of a few months, one in five American autoworkers received a pink slip.  Two great American companies -- Chrysler and GM -- stood on the brink of liquidation. 

The president had two choices.  He could do nothing or he could do something. 

He could have done what a lot of people in Washington thought we should do -- nothing.  But that might have made a bad recession into a worse depression.  Right away, it would have put a million people out of work.  Over time, it would have sent America’s manufacturing industry into freefall. 

So, instead, President Obama said that if GM and Chrysler were willing to take the difficult steps of restructuring and making themselves more competitive, the American people would stand by them.  And we did.

As a result, GM has reinvented itself for the 21st century.  America’s manufacturing sector has spearheaded our economic recovery over the past two years, generating more than 230,000 jobs since the beginning of 2010.  And that’s just one slice of the more than 2 million private sector jobs that our economy has added in total.

What’s more, because of you, we can again say that the best cars in the world are built right here in the U.S. of A; right here in the Midwest; and right here in Michigan. 

Each day when you clock in, you’re doing more than earning a pay-check by churning out cars.  You’re standing up for your company.  You’re showing the world that American manufacturing and American industry is back.  You’re growing an economy in which you can see your incomes and savings rise again – an economy in which you can send your kids to college, and retire with dignity, security, and respect.    And you’re writing another proud chapter in the American story – a story about digging in and refusing to give up; a story about building great new products; a story about doing big things.

Yes, we’ve still got a long way to go.   Our friends and neighbors are still feeling the sting of recession.  There’s nobody in this hall who doesn’t know someone who is looking for work and hasn’t yet found it.  But, here in Flint, you’re showing the world what’s still possible in Michigan and America.  Keep up the good work.

Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2012
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