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President’s remarks at Siemens plant in Fort Madison

President’s remarks at Siemens plant in Fort Madison

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! (Applause.) Oh, it’s good to be — good to
be back in Iowa; good to be in Fort Madison. (Applause.) Thank you.
Everybody, please have a seat.

I want to just acknowledge some of our special guests —
first of all, my Secretary of Agriculture — you may still know him as Governor
Vilsack. I know him as Secretary Vilsack. Give Tom Vilsack a big round of
applause. (Applause.) Your current governor who is doing an outstanding job —
Chet Culver. (Applause.) The mayor of Fort Madison, Steve Ireland. Steve,
it’s good to see you again. (Applause.)

The President and CEO of Siemens, Peter Loescher, is
here. (Applause.) And our plant manager, Robert Gjuraj, who just gave me a
terrific tour — so, thank you, Robert. Where’s Robert? There he is, right
there. (Applause.)

I have just been on an incredibly
impressive tour of this facility and saw how these giant blades are created.
And they look even cooler up close — unbelievably impressive technologies. And
it was remarkable just to see how these things are made, but it’s even more
remarkable when you consider that just a few short years ago, this facility was
dark, it was quiet, nothing was going on. And today, it’s alive and humming
with more than 600 employees, almost two-thirds of whom found themselves
unemployed before they were here. (Applause.) This plant — Robert was telling
me, I may get my facts wrong here, but even two years ago you had only 200
employees. Now we’ve got 600 employees two years later. And this plant
supports more than 350 other jobs throughout Lee County. (Applause.)

So you’re manufacturing blades for
some of the most advanced wind turbines in the world; each one as tall as Air
Force One is long; each is capable of generating enough power for hundreds of
homes, just by harnessing the wind. So what’s going on here, what each of the
employees of Siemens are involved with, is helping stake America’s claim on a
clean-energy future. And you’re staking Fort Madison’s claim on America’s

And that’s why I come to Iowa here
today. Some of the — one of the reporters said, “Why Iowa?” I said, well, I
love Iowa, first of all. (Applause.) Wouldn’t have been President if it wasn’t
for Iowa. (Applause.) It’s close to Illinois. (Laughter.) But also, I wanted
to come here because to talk with folks like you about the economic hardship and
the pain that this town has gone through and so many people are still feeling is
important, but it’s also to talk about the economic potential.

Lately, we’ve been able to report
some welcome news after a hard two years. Our economy is finally growing
again. Our markets are climbing. Our businesses are beginning to create jobs

Now, in too many places, though,
the recovery isn’t reaching everybody just yet. Times are still tough in towns
like Fort Madison. And times are still tough for middle-class Americans, who
have been swimming against the current for years before this economic tidal wave
hit. So even as we took steps to rescue our economy and recover from this
crisis, we also wanted to take steps to rebuild our economy on a new foundation,
a firmer foundation for long-term growth and prosperity -– to create conditions
so that folks who work hard can finally get ahead.

And that means making our schools
more competitive. It means making our colleges more affordable. Yes, it means
making health insurance affordable and giving families and businesses more
choice and more competition, and more protection from the worst abuses of the
insurance industry. And it means common-sense reforms that prevent
irresponsibility of a few on Wall Street from threatening the dreams of millions
on Main Street.

But the reason we’re here is
because it also means igniting a new, clean-energy economy that generates good
jobs right here in the United States.

Now, we’ve talked about this for
decades. We talked about how our dependence on fossil fuels threatened our
economy. But after all the talk, a lot of times our will to act rose and fell
depending on what the price of a gallon of gas was at the pump. During the
summer when prices went up, everybody was all for clean energy. And when prices
went back down, suddenly everybody forgot about it.

So we’ve talked about this problem
for a long time — how it threatened future generations. We talked about issues
of how the climate is changing. We talked about how it threatened our national
security because we’re dependent on other countries for what makes our country
run — dependence that grew deeper with every passing year.

And meanwhile, while we talked,
other nations acted. From Spain to China, other nations recognized that the
country that leads the clean-energy economy will be the country that leads the
21st century global economy. They were making serious investments to win that
race and the jobs that come with it.

And some of you may have heard me say this before: I
don’t accept second place for the United States of America. (Applause.) And
that’s why our energy security has been a top priority for my administration
since the day I took office.

We began early last year by making
the largest investment in clean energy in our nation’s history. It’s an
investment expected to create or save more than 700,000 jobs across America by
the end of 2012 –- jobs manufacturing next-generation batteries for
next-generation vehicles; jobs upgrading to a smarter, stronger power grid; jobs
doubling America’s capacity to generate renewable electricity from sources like
the sun and the wind, just like you do here.

And that investment was all part
of the Recovery Act. This facility took advantage of that act’s Advanced Energy
Manufacturing Tax Credit, and we were just talking — Robert and I were talking
about the fact that part of what’s allowed us to have these new platforms and
these new molds is this tax credit. It allowed you to add equipment and boost
output and hire new workers right here in Fort Madison.

So in the midst of the economic
turmoil, the Recovery Act helped make it possible for America to install nearly
10 gigawatts of new wind-generating capacity last year alone -– and that’s
enough to power more than 2.4 million American homes. So when people ask you
what was the Recovery Act about, what was the stimulus about, it was about this
— this plant.

And each new wind farm has the
potential to create hundreds of construction jobs, and dozens of permanent local
jobs in communities just like Fort Madison. Robert — we were talking about the
fact that — who’s catering the food here at the factory? That’s suddenly a
whole bunch of business for the local grocers. The folks who are installing the
electricity here — additional work. So there’s a ripple effect that occurs.

And one study suggests that if we
pursue our full potential for wind energy, and everything else goes right, wind
could generate as much as 20 percent of America’s electricity 20 years from
now. (Applause.) That’s right, 20 percent. (Applause.) And Secretary Vilsack
was telling me that Iowa is at the cutting edge. Iowa has already hit that
mark, hasn’t it — because of Governor Culver and his predecessor, Tom Vilsack,
it may be a reality right here in Iowa. (Applause.) This state already
generates a higher percentage of its electricity from wind than any other
state. And that number is only growing. That number is only growing.

And as extraordinary as this
facility is, here’s the thing — wind power isn’t a silver bullet, it’s not
going to solve all our energy challenges. There’s no single energy source. The
key is to understand that this is a key component, a key part of a comprehensive
strategy to move us from an economy that just runs on fossil fuels to one that
relies on more homegrown fuels and clean energy. I believe that we can come
together around this issue and pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation
that will ignite new industries, spark new jobs in towns just like Fort Madison,
make America more energy-independent. Our security, our economy, the future of
our planet all depend on it.

This is what’s possible in a
clean-energy economy. And while it may not feel like it every day when you
punch in, to all the folks who work here at Siemens, I want you to understand,
you’re making it possible. You are blazing a trail. You’re showing America our
future. And some day, our children, and our children’s children, will look back
at this factory, this moment, and they will be proud at a generation that chose,
in a time of crisis, to place its bet on the future, and to reopen factories,
and restart assembly lines, and retrain workers; a generation that chose once
again to step forward and meet the challenges of our time.

That’s what this represents..
That’s what you represent. And we could not be prouder.

So thank you very much,
everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.