Barack Obama, Michigan, President Obama — August 12, 2011 at 7:07 am

PHOTOBLOG: President Obama visits (another) Holland, Michigan battery plant


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President Obama was back in Holland, Michigan again yesterday, just over a year from his last visit there. In July 2010, he visited the groundbreaking of the LG Chem/Compact Power Inc. vehicle battery plant, an event where he called out Pete Houkstra who attended the event despite having voted against the stimulus legislation that made the federal grant to LG Chem/Compact Power Inc. possible.

This visit was to the brand new Johnson Controls plant, another vehicle battery-making facility that received federal funding. This plant was built thanks to a $299.2 million federal stimulus grant and $168 million in state grants.

Driving up to the plant, there was a cluster of what appeared to be protesters. Turns out they were supporters of the president.

Below are some photos from the event along with some of the president’s comments.

Former MI-07 Congressman Mark Schauer. Mark is now the Co-Chair the Blue Green Alliance’s Jobs21! Campaign

At a time when Americans are rightly focused on our economy, when Americans are asking about what’s our path forward, all of you here at Johnson Controls are providing a powerful answer. This is one of the most advanced factories in the world. You’re helping America lead in a growing new industry. You’re showing us how we can come back from the worst recession that we’ve had in generations and start making things here in America that are sold all around the world. And that’s why I’m here today. I’ve said it before; I will say it again: You cannot bet against the American worker. Don’t bet against American ingenuity.

Now, some of what we’re facing today has to do with events beyond our control. As the economy was improving and improving through 2009, 2010, the beginning of this year, suddenly it was hit with the unrest in the Middle East that helped send gas prices through the roof. Europe is dealing with all sorts of financial turmoil that is lapping up on our shores. Japan’s tragic earthquake hurt economies around the globe, including ours, cut off some supply chains that were very important to us. And all of this has further challenged our economy. And as we’ve seen, it’s playing out in the stock market, wild swings, up and down, and it makes folks nervous, and it affects the savings of families all across America.

Now, challenges like these — earthquakes, revolutions — those are things we can’t control. But what we can control is our response to these challenges. What we can control is what happens in Washington. Unfortunately, what we’ve seen in Washington the last few months has been the worst kind of partisanship, the worst kind of gridlock –- and that gridlock has undermined public confidence and impeded our efforts to take the steps we need for our economy. It’s made things worse instead of better.

So what I want to say to you, Johnson Controls, is: There is nothing wrong with our country. There is something wrong with our politics. There’s something wrong with our politics that we need to fix.

We know there are things we can do right now that will help accelerate growth and job creation –- that will support the work going on here at Johnson Controls, here in Michigan, and all across America. We can do some things right now that will make a difference. We know there are things we have to do to erase a legacy of debt that hangs over the economy. But time and again, we’ve seen partisan brinksmanship get in the way -– as if winning the next election is more important than fulfilling our responsibilities to you and to our country. This downgrade you’ve been reading about could have been entirely avoided if there had been a willingness to compromise in Congress. See, it didn’t happen because we don’t have the capacity to pay our bills -– it happened because Washington doesn’t have the capacity to come together and get things done. It was a self-inflicted wound.

That’s why people are frustrated. Maybe you hear it in my voice — that’s why I’m frustrated. Because you deserve better. You guys deserve better.

All of you, from the CEO down, are working hard, taking care of your kids or your parents –- maybe both. You’re living within your means. You may be trying to save for your child’s college education or saving for retirement. You’re donating to the church or the food pantry. You’re trying to help the community. You’re doing your part. You’re living up to your responsibilities. It’s time for Washington to do the same -– to match your resolve, and to match your decency, and to show the same sense of honor and discipline. That is not too much to ask. That’s what the American people are looking for.

And if that can happen, we know what’s possible. We know what we can achieve. Look at this factory. Look what’s happening in Holland, Michigan. Every day, hundreds of people are going to work on the technologies that are helping us to fight our way out of this recession. Every day, you’re building high-tech batteries so that we lead the world in manufacturing the best cars and the best trucks. And that just doesn’t mean jobs in Michigan. You’re buying equipment and parts from suppliers in Florida and New Mexico and Ohio and Wisconsin and all across America.

So let’s think about it — what made this possible? The most important part is you: your drive, your work ethic, your ingenuity, your management. The grit and optimism that says, “We’ve got an idea for a new battery technology or a new manufacturing process, and we’re going to take that leap and we’re going to make an investment. And we’re going to hire some folks and we’re going to see it through.” That’s what made it possible.

But what also made this possible are the actions that we took together, as a nation, through our government –- the fact that we were willing to invest in the research and the technology that holds so much promise for jobs and growth; the fact that we helped create together the conditions where businesses like this can prosper.

That’s why we’re investing in clean energy. That’s why I brought together the world’s largest auto companies who agreed, for the first time, to nearly double the distance their cars can go on a gallon of gas. That’s going to save consumers thousands of dollars at the pump. It’s going to cut our dependence on foreign oil. It’s going to promote innovation and jobs, and it’s going to mean more groundbreakings and more job postings for companies like Johnson Controls. And that’s how America will lead the world in automotive innovation and production and exports in this country.

Think about it. That’s what we got done — and by the way, we didn’t go through Congress to do it. But we did use the tools of government — us working together — to help make it happen.

Now, there are more steps that we can take to help this economy growing faster. There are things we can do right now that will put more money in your pockets; will help businesses sell more products around the world; will put people to work in Michigan and across the country. And to get these things done, we do need Congress.

They’re common-sense ideas that have been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans, things that are supported by Carl Levin. The only thing keeping us back is our politics. The only thing preventing these bills from being passed is the refusal of some folks in Congress to put the country ahead of party. There are some in Congress right now who would rather see their opponents lose than see America win.

And that has to stop. It’s got to stop. We’re supposed to all be on the same team, especially when we’re going through tough times. We can’t afford to play games — not right now, not when the stakes are so high for our economy.

And if you agree with me –- it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican or an independent — you’ve got to let Congress know. You’ve got to tell them you’ve had enough of the theatrics. You’ve had enough of the politics. Stop sending out press releases. Start passing some bills that we all know will help our economy right now. That’s what they need to do — they’ve got to hear from you.

We can’t ask the people in this room — working families, middle-class families — to bear the entire burden. We’re not going to balance our budgets on the back of middle-class and working people in this country. Everybody has got to do their part. Everybody has got to do their part. Everybody has got to chip in. That’s fair. You learn it in kindergarten. That’s what all this fuss was about in Washington: Are we going to deal with our deficit in a way that’s fair? And that means closing tax loopholes for billionaires before we cut college loans for young people. That means ending government subsidies for oil and gas companies that are doing very well before you cut health care for seniors. It means making sure that the biggest corporations pay their fair share in taxes before we gut the investments in technology and clean energy that made this factory a reality.

Now, that’s just common sense. It should have bipartisan support. These are things we could be doing right now. That’s how we can jumpstart this economy and speed up the recovery and get more folks working -– while making sure that we get our fiscal house in order. We can do both.

And I’ll be laying out more proposals in the days ahead. And I’m going to keep after every idea and every serious proposal to help us grow this economy -– until everybody who wants a job can find one.

But I want everybody to understand here, the problem is not that we don’t have answers. The problem is, is that folks are playing political games. We’ve got a long way to go. We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it’s going to take time to get us out. That’s the truth. But that’s no excuse for inaction. It’s time to put aside ultimatums. It’s time to stop drawing lines in the sand…

We’ve got a lot of work to do, and the only way we will get it done is if everybody, Democrats and Republicans, find a way to put country ahead of party. That’s what I’m fighting for. I’m here to enlist you in that fight. You’ve got to hold everybody accountable, because if we can come together and find common ground, there is no stopping the United States of America. There is no holding us back. We can strengthen this economy, and we can put our nation back to work. And we can lead the world in growing industries. And we will make it through these economic storms and reach calmer waters stronger than we were before.

And, finally, a rare picture of White House photographer Pete Souza. You don’t often see an image of the man behind the remarkable photos from the life of President Obama.

For more photos, visit Anne Savage Photography