Linamar, which is based in Canada, makes heavy engine parts and components, several of which dangled above the stage where Obama spoke Wednesday afternoon after shedding his suit jacket and rolling up his sleeves.
The White House said that in 2011 Linamar expanded its U.S. operations here using a closed Volvo Construction Equipment plant where 220 people had worked until it was shuttered the previous year. Since then, Linamar has hired 160 workers with plans to hire 40 more by the end of the year. The company has plants in China, Mexico and other countries competing for manufacturing jobs.
“When a major manufacturing plant closes, we often see vicious downward economic spirals in those communities,” Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, told reporters Wednesday before Obama’s remarks.
Sperling said Obama’s budget would include $6 billion in tax credits to help communities such as Asheville attract manufacturing companies when previous ones move or close.
Those towns and cities would apply for the tax credits financed by the federal government, which could provide financial incentive for companies to move into shuttered factories. The fund did not exist when Linamar made its choice to move here.
Sperling said Obama would also seek $113 million to create manufacturing community partnerships — essentially a clearinghouse in the Commerce Department where economically suffering communities could more easily find out what federal policies can help them attract manufacturing businesses, as well as which companies may be interested in relocating.
“What’s happening here is happening all around the country,” Obama said, adding that the costs of doing business abroad are rising to the point that some companies are finding it cheaper to open plants in the United States.
But Obama warned that “not every job” lost overseas will be returning and that the economy is increasingly reliant on technology.
He said better job training is essential, at local community colleges and at the three new manufacturing institutes he announced Tuesday that bring together private- and public-sector agencies. He called on Congress to approve money to build a dozen more.
“I believe in manufacturing,” Obama told the audience. “It makes American stronger.”
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