On a day when Chrysler Group announced an additional planned $843 million investment in its Kokomo, Ind., facilities, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talked of the rebound the community has made.
During his opening remarks, Vice President Biden told employees at Indiana Transmission Plant II, "When you guys have jobs, the coffee shop stays open. The barbershop stays open. The restaurant stays open...people open new businesses downtown."
Later, Vice President Biden said, "The remodeled plant can reinvigorate the entire communit and give people that don't work here hope."
President Obama continued the theme in thanking the plant and other Chrysler personnel, along with local politicians during his remarks. While there are still some "serious challenges" to face, President Obama said the changes in the Kokomo plant and throughout the city "are signs of hope and confidence in the future.
"You're showing us the way forward. You're living up to that spirit of optimism, determination and grit that's always been at the heart of who we are as a people; at the heart of America."
Prior to their remarks, President Obama and Vice President Biden met with Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne and plant personnel, and were lead on a tour by Plant Manager Jeremy Keating and UAW Local 986 President Richie Boruff. During the tour, the group stopped at the final assembly line where the clutch and supporting components are manually assembled to the transmission. The President and Vice President talked with employees about the changes that have been implemented to improve the efficiency of the line as a result of World Class Manufacturing (WCM), an extensive and thorough process to restore all Chrysler Group facilities to their original and maximum functionality.
During this talk, President Obama pointed out Sharron Ybarra and James Faurote as examples of the success at ITP II and its impact on the area. Both employees were either hired or rehired after Chrysler exited bankruptcy.
The optimism in the Kokomo plant is shared by employees as well as politicians.
"The ownership we have want to do something with us; not gut us for profit," said Jason Bryant, a machine operator who's been with Chrysler 15 years.
Pat Harvey is a supervisor at ITP II and noted that World Class Manufacturing has not only improved the manufacturing process, but has enabled employees to take greater ownership and pride in their work. He said he has a neighbor who's an hourly employee, and one Sunday he said to him, "You have to go to work tonight, right?"
Harvey said his neighbor replied, "No, I get to go to work."
For more pictures of the Whitehouse visit to Kokomo, see the Chrysler Communications Facebook Page.
President Barack Obama (left), Plant Manager Jeremy Keating (right), UAW Local 986 President Richie Boruff (left behind) and Vice President Joe Biden (right behind) tour Chrysler Group LLC‘s Indiana Transmission Plant II in Kokomo, Ind., on Nov. 23, 2010.