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Town Hall Discussion at Dakkota Integrated Systems, Holt, Michigan


Wednesday, June 3, 2009



Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Town Hall Discussion at Dakkota Integrated Systems
Holt, Michigan

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 toda—but especially true here. This development has been forecast for some time, but that doesn't make it any less of a body blow for the people in this room who came to work every day integrating automotive interiors.

It's an anxious 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 intervened with GM and Chrysler, and put taxpayer money on the line if we didn’t have confidence they could emerge stronger and more competitive.

Our goal is not a takeover, it’s to get GM back on its feet and get it out of bankruptcy as quickly as possible. We don’t want to run these companies—we’ll leave that to the private sector experts and managers.

What we do want to do is to empower American businesses to succeed.

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 Dakkota can thrive and create new, good-paying jobs.

As Commerce Secretary, 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 establishment of the company with that idea to finding markets once the idea has been transformed into a product or service.

This factory is a great example. Back in 2002, when Dakkota was getting off the ground, the department’s Minority Business Development Agency helped them secure vital tax credits to set up here in Holt.

Dakkota is also a part of Commerce’s successful Manufacturing Extension Program—where we join with state and local initiatives to partner with private sector companies to drive billions of dollars worth of gains in efficiency and productivity.

And this year, the Commerce Department will deliver more than $110 million to communities across this region, many of the same 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 over the next year, the department’s Census Bureau will 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 Michigan offices in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Pontiac and Ypsilanti.

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 Holt to answer your queries and concerns, and find out what else we can do to help.

Now, I’d like to hear directly from you. . . .