Pearson: Earlier today, President Obama stopped in Ft. Madison, Iowa where he was on the "cutting edge" of wind turbine blades manufactured by Siemens Energy.
And wind energy proponents say the operation is just one example of a rapidly growing industry that has the ability to generate both energy and jobs.
The first stop on President Obama's "White House to Main Street Tour" was Fort Madison, Iowa. Situated on the Mississippi River in the southeast corner of the state, Fort Madison is located in Lee County where unemployment is 10.9 percent… the second highest of Iowa's 99 counties and 4 percentage points higher than the statewide average.
Siemens Energy is one of the county's bright spots. The 600,000 square foot facility manufactures wind turbine blades and employs 600 people. President Obama toured of the facility, which typifies the President's energy and jobs agenda for rural America. Currently, Iowa has attracted more major wind manufacturers than any other U.S. state and wind generates 14 percent of the state's electrical power. The highest percentage of any state in the nation.
President Obama: "Lately, we've been able to report some welcome news after a hard two years. Our economy is growing. Our markets are climbing. Our businesses are beginning to create jobs again.
But in too many places, the recovery isn't reaching everyone just yet. Times are still tough in towns like Fort Madison. And times are still tough for middle-class Americans, who had been swimming against the current for years before the economic tidal wave hit.
So even as we took steps to rescue our economy and recover from this crisis, we took steps to rebuild our economy on a new foundation for long-term growth and prosperity – to create conditions so that folks who work hard can finally get ahead."
With holdings in industry, transportation, health care and energy, Siemens has 405,000 employees in 190 countries and reported revenues of $104.3 billion in 2009. In the U.S. the corporation employs 64,000 people and reported revenue of $21.3 billion and is the third largest manufacturer of wind energy in America.
President Obama: "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. And that's why our energy security has been a top priority for my administration since the day I took office."
Siemens began producing turbine blades in Fort Madison in 2007. This year the factory received a $3.5 million tax credit from the America's Recovery and Reinvestment Act with additional tax incentives coming from the state of Iowa. The money has allowed the Fort Madison facility to purchase equipment and increase production.
Randy Zwern, CEO Siemens Energy U.S.: "I think tax credits are very important to stimulate the wind industry. Today wind only generates about 1.5% of all the energy in the U.S. and I think the view of the administration is they'd like to get closer to 20%. So, I think the stimulus and the tax credits are really critical to get the investment that is needed to achieve that goal."
President Obama: "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."
At one time semi truck trailers were built in the same building where wind turbine blades are now manufactured. Pam Crutchfield lost her job when that company went out of business. But she was the first local person hired by Siemens. And for Crutchfield the company has done more than provide a job, it's kept her family together.
Pam Crutchfield, Siemens Supply Management: "My son works here. He's very, very young. It enabled him to buy a house here in the community. I have two brothers that also work here. They both worked for other facilities that closed their doors after 30 some years of employment. So, it's been a wonderful opportunity for my family and for a lot of other families in the community as well."
President Obama: "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 of 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."