- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 5, 2009

President Obama traveled Wednesday to northern Indiana to tell employees of a recreational-vehicle manufacturer that the hard-hit Midwest has not been overlooked in his economic-recovery plan.

“People say the only way to recover is to forget Elkhart County,” he told employees at the Monaco RV plant in Wakarusa, Ind. “But you and I know the truth is exactly the opposite. I believe our ability to recover and prosper as a nation depends on what happens in communities just like this.”

Mr. Obama said the plant owner —Navistar International Corp. — would receive $39 million from $2.4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants to help produce next-generation cars.

The money to Navistar will go toward building battery-operated cars. The county is a hub for RV manufacturing and has an unemployment rate of 16.8 percent — 10 percent more than last year.

“I don’t want to import a hybrid car,” Mr. Obama said. “I want to build one right here.”

The visit was part of Mr. Obama’s larger plan to send top administration officials around the country Wednesday to award grant money to regions still struggling in the 21-month-long recession.

The president told the workers that federal recovery money already has helped extended unemployment benefits for laid-off co-workers and has kept area teachers and police officers on the job.

He also used the visit to tout his larger-scale agenda that includes health-care reform and improving education.

“I want to pass health-care reform that keeps down costs,” the president said. “I promise you, we will pass health-care reform because the American people need it.”

Mr. Obama appealed to the workers to support his recovery efforts by affirming their Midwestern values and hard-work ethic.

“The battle will be fought and won in towns across America and across the Midwest — the backbone of the middle class,” he said.

Administration officials traveled around the country as members of Congress left Washington for their August recess and went home to talk to Americans about health-care reform.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was in Detroit to announce more than $1 billion in grants to companies and universities based in Michigan, which is reeling from jobs lost in the decline of the automotive industry.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu visited Charlotte, N.C., to announce a $49 million grant for the Celgard company to meet the expected demand for lithium-ion batteries from domestic manufacturers.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson was in St. Petersburg, Fla., to announce a $95.5 million grant for Saft America Inc. to build a new plant in Jacksonville, Fla., to manufacture lithium-ion cells, modules and battery packs for military, industrial and agricultural vehicles.

John Porcari, deputy secretary of the Transportation Department, went to Lyon Station, Pa., to award the East Penn Manufacturing Co. a $32.5 million grant to increase production capacity for next-generation batteries for hybrid cars.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke visited Kansas City, Mo., to announce a round of grants, including $10 million for the Smith Electric Co. to build and deploy as many as 100 electric vehicles.

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