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We’ll be covering President Obama’s visit to Kansas City tomorrow, both at the Smith Electric Vehicle plant and at one of the fundraising events for Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan’s U.S. Senate campaign. As a prelude to tomorrow’s activities the White House offered a media conference call with administration officials this afternoon on the Recovery Act event:

The White House

Office of Media Affairs

For Immediate Release

July 7, 2010

CONFERENCE CALL: Administration Officials to Preview the President’s Upcoming Visit to Kansas City, Missouri

WASHINGTON- Today, at 1:00 p.m. EDT Jared Bernstein, Chief Economist to Vice President Biden, and Matt Rogers, Senior Advisor to Energy Secretary Chu will hold a conference call to preview the President’s upcoming visit to Kansas City, Missouri.  

In Kansas City on July 8, President Obama will visit Smith Electric Vehicles where he will tour the facilities and deliver remarks on the economy to workers.  Smith Electric Vehicles is an all-electric, zero emissions commercial truck manufacturer that received a $32 million Recovery Act grant to build all-electric trucks.  The award, which is part of the $2.4 billion in Recovery Act advanced battery and electric vehicle grants the President announced last August, is helping Smith Electric establish operations at a re-purposed jet engine overhaul facility at the Kansas City International Airport, the first of as many as 20 regional assembly plants Smith Electric plans to open in the U.S….

The transcript:

Matt Lehrich, White House Communications: Hey everybody, it’s Matt Lehrich, in White House Communications, thanks for joining us today.  We are joined by Jared Bernstein who is chief economist for Vice President Biden and by Matt Rogers, Senior Advisor to Energy Secretary Chu. Gonna talk a little bit about, uh, what the President’s gonna be talking about tomorrow as well as the Recovery Act more broadly, and some of the specific programs under Department of Energy. And with that I’ll turn it over to Jared Bernstein….

….Jared Bernstein , Chief Economist to Vice President Biden: Uh, thank you very much Matt, and I, uh, very, uh, happy to be here along with, uh, another  Matt, Matt Rogers, uh, the Senior Advisor to Secretary Chu, and someone who’s, uh, been working tirelessly on, uh, uh, uh, efficiently implementing the kinds of programs we’re talking about today.

Uh, uh, before we even took office, uh, President-elect Obama recognized the urgent need to do two things. First, get economic medicine into system quickly and address what was then morphing into the deepest recession in decades. And second, incentivize investment that would both create good jobs today and plant the seeds of key new industries for tomorrow, particularly in the area of clean energy. The President’s trip to Kansas City, Missouri tomorrow to Smith Electric Vehicles is a great example of this second priority and Matt will present, uh, the details in a moment.

But first, I’d like to put the President’s visit in the broader context of the current economy and the Recovery Act. Now remember the act was passed back in February of two thousand and nine, a time when the nation’s job market was hemorrhaging jobs at, at a truly nightmarish rate. In just the first six months of last year, uh, the job market shed close to four million jobs. The Recovery Act quickly got the medicine into the system in the form of tax relief for over a hundred million working families, relief for strapped states as well, as millions who had lost their jobs and needed fast help making their family budgets. Almost immediately, as these stimulus dollars began to circulate throughout the economy the pace of job losses slowed and now we’ve seen net job growth in six of the last seven months. Now think about the pace of this turnaround. As I noted a second ago, in the first six months of last year we shed three point seven million private sector jobs. In the first six months of this year we’ve added five hundred and ninety-three thousand private sector jobs. All told the Recovery Act has widely credited with creating or saving two and a half million jobs so far, on track to create or save three and a half million by the end of this year. That’s solid movement in the right direction, but it’s not good enough. While this economic recovery that’s underway is slowly being felt in many parts of the country it’s clearly not yet provided the American middle class with, uh, the, the full [inaudible] of opportunities they need and they deserve. We’ve got to do more, uh, a lot more, to build on the momentum, uh, achieved thus far. And that’s what the President’s trip tomorrow is all about.

The Smith Electric story provides a great microcosm of the Recovery Act’s innovation agenda. First, while the quickly acting programs got up and running right away, folks on Matt’s team over at DOE, the Department of Energy, were busy choosing the best applicants, the ones who were gonna deliver the best bang for the buck from applicants to programs like the electric vehicle grants one. And this two point four billion dollar program is a subset of over one hundred billion dollars of innovation investments in clean energy, health IT, grid modernization, high speed rail, and broadband Internet access. It’s precisely by planting these seeds that the federal government incentivizes private capital to come in off of the sidelines and get to work building new sectors of our economy, and in the process, creating good jobs here in America. In fact, the two point four billion dollars from the electric vehicle program leverages up dollar for dollar partnering with private investment to increase the American footprint in this industry. Now last year the U.S. had only two factories manufacturing advanced vehicle batteries. And the produced less than two percent of the world’s advanced vehicle batteries. While the investment from the re, with the investment from the Recovery Act, by twenty-twelve thirty factories are expected to come online with capacity to produce more than twenty percent of the world’s advanced batteries, enough batteries and components to support five hundred thousand plug-in and hybrid electric vehicles.

The economics of all this are very compelling right now. The American middle class needs robust job growth, but that’s not all. In order to tap the productive potential of the greatest workforce in the world and create lasting opportunities for working Americans, the ones they need and deserve, our firms and our industries must overcome a set of steep market barriers to entry and expansion that they currently face, including tight credit, high fixed costs, scale economies, and highly aggressive competition from abroad. Programs like the advance battery grants can help businesses overcome these barriers and that leads to good jobs here at home. That in turn leads to higher living standards for working families as they finally have a clean shot at claiming their fair share of the growing economy, something that has eluded them for decades as economic growth was too often a spectator sport for the middle class. It’s a whole other dimension of the Recovery Act at work and we’re excited to see it unfold as the new economic expansion gets underway. Uh, Matt.

Matt Rogers, Senior Advisor to Energy Secretary Chu: Thank you Jared and, and thanks to that, uh, good, uh, overview of where we are overall in the Recovery Act. Smith specifically received a thirty-two million dollar grant under the Recovery Act. They matched this with thirty-six million dollars in their own, uh, private capital as part of a project to build five hundred all electric trucks in Kansas City. This was all part of the two point four billion dollars in battery and transportation electrification awards we announced last August. And these are, again, all electric trucks that will be used by Coca-Cola, AT and T, Staples, Frito Lay, Pacific Gas and
Electric, and Kansas City and Power and Light in their fleets. These all electric trucks have a hundred mile range. They can carry sixteen thousand pounds, making these vehicles very well suited for stop and go short haul circuits for delivery, equipment installation, uh, and maintenance, uh, service truck fleets. Like those, uh, we mentioned earlier.

These all electric trucks should deliver significantly lower fuel costs, lower operating costs, less particulate [inaudible] and CO2 pollution than the largely diesel  powered vehicles that they will replace, uh, in these fleets. Smith’s assembling these vehicles in an eighty thousand square foot facility at Kansas City International Airport that used to actually be a jet engine overhaul, uh, facility. Smith has three assembly lines, uh, in operation, uh, today. Uh, total employment for this facility under this contract, uh, will grow to seventy, but we expect there is a large market for these, uh, electric trucks. And we expect demand to grow as the market proves out the economics for these vehicles.

Importantly this investment is part of the administration’s major push to restructure the transportation sector, reducing our dependence on oil, improving our environment, developing god jobs, uh, today, and laying the foundation for long term economic growth by positioning the United States as a leader in high growth markets like the electric vehicle, uh, markets for the twenty-first century. This is also an important part of a Kansas City story, where Kansas City is building out a, uh, very attractive smart grid network, also under the Recovery Act, uh, and it developed a, a , uh, green zone within Kansas City that is bringing in, uh, renewables, more transportation electrification, uh, and doing a whole set of things around energy efficiency within the, within the community there. So it’s a great story about growing on a national basis and it’s also a very good story about, uh, Kansas City….

We plan on plenty of coverage of the two events tomorrow.