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Town Hall Discussion at Silfex Semiconductor Plant, Eaton, Ohio


Tuesday, June 2, 2009



Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Town Hall Discussion at Silfex Semiconductor Plant
Eaton, Ohio

Thank you so much for having me here today.

I’m going to start by addressing the elephant in the room. The news of General Motors’ bankruptcy is weighing heavily on a lot of Americans today—and I know that is especially true here in Eaton. With a Delphi plant down the street and scores of parts suppliers throughout the region, this is a scary time.

But I want you all to know that the Obama administration is committed to revitalizing America’s automotive and manufacturing base. We wouldn’t have put taxpayer money on the line to intervene with GM and Chrysler, if we didn’t have confidence they could emerge stronger and more competitive.

Of course, the pain in this economy hasn’t been confined to America’s car makers.

That’s why President Obama has worked so hard since the day he entered office to stabilize our financial system and free up credit markets so our businesses can grow again.

It’s why he passed the largest stimulus package in U.S. history. And it’s why he is so committed to reforming the way America uses energy, educates our kids and consumes health care.

Fundamentally, these policies are all about creating an environment where businesses like Silfex can thrive and create new, good-paying jobs.

As Commerce Secretary, my number one priority is connected. Job one is improving the vitality of our small- and medium-sized businesses—Main Street businesses—which account for so many new jobs in America.

The good news is that the Department of Commerce has tools to help businesses at every point in the growth cycle – from the birth of an idea, to the standing up of the company with that idea to finding markets once it’s been transformed into a product or service.

This factory is a great example. Silfex is part of the department’s successful Manufacturing Extension Program—where Commerce joins with state and local initiatives to partner with private sector companies to drive billions of dollars worth of gains in efficiency and productivity. Last year alone, over 1,300 Ohio manufacturers got assistance through the MEP program.

And this year, the Commerce Department will deliver more than $110 million to communities across this region, the very communities most affected by the troubles facing our auto industry.

I’m pleased to announce today that that number includes some $27 million in Recovery Act funds, which will be distributed through Economic Development Administration grants.

Commerce also will deploy $4.7 billion nationally to help bring broadband service to communities lacking the information infrastructure to compete in the 21st Century economy.

And the Department’s Census Bureau will—in the next year—put more than a million Americans to work for the Decennial count.

The funding for new programs under the Recovery Act is crucial, but no less essential are the thousands of the Department’s own engineers, scientists, statisticians, management and trade specialists who can be critical resources for our businesses; and plenty of them can be found working at our Ohio offices in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo and Kent.

Unfortunately, in the few, short months I’ve been at Commerce, I’ve already noticed a serious shortcoming with those resources. I’ve seen how hard it can be for businesses to tap into them.

In fact, if you’re a manufacturing company and you’ve actually managed to figure our how to navigate the maze of federal agencies and subagencies, I’d suggest some rebranding: You are now a government relations firm that makes things on the side.

It shouldn’t be that way. The burden should not be on Main Street businesses to figure out how the federal bureaucracy can help them—detracting time, attention and resources away from job-creation activities. Instead, government needs to bring services and solutions directly to those creating and sustaining jobs.

The Department of Commerce is in the process of doing just that and within the next few weeks, we’ll be rolling out plans to make us more accessible and relevant to your day to day business.

It is an imperative for these times, and essential, just like the president’s stimulus package, for laying a new foundation that will allow business to thrive and create new, good-paying jobs.

In the meantime, I want to be out here in places like Eaton to answer your queries and concerns, and find out what else we can do to help.

Now, we’d like to hear what our panelists have to say.