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Remarks at Kansas City Power & Light Company, Kansas City, Missouri


Wednesday, August 5, 2009



Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks at Kansas City Power & Light Company
Kansas City, Missouri

Hello everyone.

It’s great to be back in Missouri, and to see so many friends and colleagues here.

This is my second trip to Missouri in the last few months. I was in St. Louis in April with Vice President Biden, talking about this administration’s plans to invest in a clean energy future that makes America energy independent, puts people to work and expands the use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

I’m here in Kansas City this afternoon to tell you we’re making good on that vision.

Today, the president announced $2.4 billion in grants to help America take the lead in next generation batteries and electric vehicles manufacturing.

And I’m pleased to announce that some of those jobs are coming right here to Kansas City—thanks to Smith Electric receiving a multimillion dollar grant to build electric vehicles in and around the city. And Smith has already signed up Kansas City Power and Light as a customer to buy three vehicles.

Meanwhile, the Ford Motor Company also was awarded a grant, and the vehicles it produces will come off an assembly line right here in Kansas City.

This funding, which comes courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—is going to do two things.

Number one, it will immediately create jobs. We’re expecting the creation of tens of thousands of new manufacturing jobs in the battery and auto industries in the U.S as a result of this investment.

Number two—investments in advanced batteries and electric cars will help lay the groundwork for long-term, sustainable economic growth in America.

The president believes—as do I—that clean energy and efficiency investments are good for our economy, our security and our environment.

After too many years of economic growth fueled by speculation and short-term thinking, these types of investments will help America recapture the spirit of innovation that has always moved us forward.

And few areas of our economy are crying out for homegrown innovation more than the clean energy sector.

Over the past 100 years--from cars to computers—American industry was at the forefront of just about every major technological innovation in the world.

We should be leading the way in clean energy too.

Instead, we’re putting our economy at risk by falling behind foreign competitors in the race for jobs and technology that will drive global markets for generations.

China is spending $12.6 million every hour on clean energy investments. The U.S. ranks behind Spain, Denmark, and Portugal in the use of wind power. Meanwhile, only six of the top 30 wind, solar and advanced battery technologies are American.

As the clean energy industry has grown across the globe, America’s traditional manufacturing base has declined. Nearly a quarter of all U.S. manufacturing jobs were lost in the last decade. And continuing with business as usual will ensure that manufacturing jobs continue to be shipped overseas.

What’s happening here in Kansas City is an important step in changing that storyline.

Under the investment I’m announcing today, Smith Electric will be using its $10 million grant to build and deploy up to 100 next-generation electric vehicles, including Ford Transit Connect vans, Ford F150 pickups, and Smith’s own “Newton” brand medium duty trucks.

Ford Motor Company, meanwhile, is receiving a $30 million grant to partner with 15 of America’s leading utilities to create a unified national approach for testing and development of next-generation, plug-in, hybrid electric and electric vehicle technologies. Two U.S. plants will be making the vehicles—one located here in Kansas City.

These funds will help Smith and Ford build new manufacturing infrastructure, develop new vehicle and engine designs and extensively test their vehicle’s performance in the coming years.

Pilot projects like this one are a vital first step on the way to the high-volume, lower-cost manufacturing that will allow electric vehicles to be sold in much greater numbers across America.

And the Missouri University of Science and Technology is joining this effort. The school is getting $5 million under the Recovery Act to establish a comprehensive electric drive vehicle education program that will teach a new generation of workers how to develop the cars of tomorrow.

Despite a recession that has now gone on longer than any since World War II, companies like Smith Electric and Ford have hung in there. Now, they are moving forward again.

And so is America.

Six months ago, our economy was in a freefall. Some economists were predicting that we were headed into a second Great Depression.

It is clear now that without the aggressive steps taken by the Obama Administration and Congress—including the Recovery Act—we might not have been able to step away from the edge of the abyss. Certainly, the economic pain Missouri families are feeling would be much worse without the $635 million in recovery act funding that has been sent here. That funding is directly responsible for tax cuts for middle class families, 90,000 Missourians receiving unemployment insurance, 5,000 people getting a first time homebuyer tax credit, and crucially, 50 new or retained jobs for Kansas City police officers.

Even with the tentative progress we’ve seen in the past few weeks, such as slowing job losses and GDP numbers that are on the cusp of turning positive, we know there is a lot more work to be done.

But I am confident about the direction America is moving in. And that confidence is only strengthened by coming to Kansas City and seeing the resilience of this community and the resourcefulness of companies like Ford and Smith, companies that are continuing to fight even when faced with unprecedented challenges.

Thank you for having me here today and congratulations to everyone who helped bring these grants to Kansas City.

You are responsible for creating good-paying jobs in the short term and helping America rebuild its economic foundation for generations to come.