Obama told the employees of Johnson Controls Inc., in Holland, Mich., gathered at the factory that they represented how America can come out of a recession by making products that can be sold around the world.
“Look what’s happening in Holland, Mich.,” said the president. “Every day, hundreds of people are going to work on the technologies that are helping us 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 -- 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, all across America.”
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The economic stimulus, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, provided $2.4 billion in grants to advanced vehicle batteries technology. From that amount, $300 million in grants went to Johnson Controls to manufacture batteries.
According to the White House, thus far the firm has added 150 jobs because of the grant. That means the government spent about $2 million per job, but only if no more jobs are added.
Some in the crowd at the factory held up signs, one saying, “Thank you for the jobs,” and another saying, “Hang tough, you’re right.” Michigan has a 10.5 percent unemployment rate, among the highest in the nation, and could be a contested state in the 2012 presidential race.
Obama reminded the workers that the government made the jobs possible.
“What made this possible? The most important part is you,” said Obama. “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. But what also made this possible are the actions that we took together as a nation through our government.”
Johnson Controls planned a total $600 million investment in battery manufacturing. The federal grant allowed the company to open the plant in Holland, Mich., with plans for opening another plant near Toledo, Ohio.
The administration plans to create incentives for consumers to purchase electric vehicles, fuel cell cars, plug-in hybrids vehicles and incentives for manufacturers to make and market the products, the White House announced before Obama spoke.
The Obama administration announced this week new fuel-efficiency standards for trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018 to reduce oil consumption from a projected 530 million barrels of carbon emissions by 270 million metric tons.
By 2018, the new standards are supposed to reduce emissions by 20 percent for big rigs and semi trucks, 15 percent for pick-up trucks and 10 percent for vehicles such as garbage trucks and school buses.
By 2014, capacity to build batteries will be three times greater than the demand, the Washington Post reported.
The General Motors Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle, priced at about $40,000, sold just 125 models in July, according to Market Watch. Though the $7,500 tax credit for the car reduced the price, less expensive cars are still selling better, according to Market Watch.
The Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry said, “GM is at least one generation behind Toyota on advanced, ‘green’ powertrain development. In an attempt to leapfrog Toyota, GM has devoted significant resources to the Chevy Volt. While the Volt holds promise, it is currently projected to be much more expensive than its gasoline-fueled peers and will likely need substantial reductions in manufacturing cost in order to become commercially viable.”