Nearly five years after he made Cedar Rapids his first stop on his campaign to transform America, President Obama will return to visit a factory to talk about his vision of a new era of “Made in America” manufacturing.
The president will make a midday visit to Cedar Rapids Wednesday to tour Conveyor Engineering & Manufacturing, 1345 76th Ave SW, after delivering his State of the Union address to Congress Tuesday night. It will be his first visit to Cedar Rapids since his town hall on energy in July 2008.
Obama is expected to speak to about 400 people on the first pillar of his blueprint — his vision for a “new era of American manufacturing with more great jobs and more products made in the USA,” according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the president’s three-day, five-state tour after the State of the Union speech.
“This is not a president who believes that the days where we make things have passed us,” one economic adviser said. “He believes that this can be a new era in American manufacturing, with more great jobs and more products stamped ‘Made in the USA.’”
For Republicans, Obama’s tour looks more like a campaign trip.
“Iowans need a president focused on their jobs, not a campaigner-in-chief solely focused on his own reelection,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Ryan Mahoney. “Barack Obama should be more focused on getting Iowa’s economy back on track and putting the millions of unemployed Americans back to work, instead of constantly campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime.”
Administration officials said neither the State of the Union nor the president’s tour will focus on drawing out his differences with Republicans, especially the party’s presidential hopefuls.
There will be ample opportunity for “robust debate with the Republicans about who has the better vision moving forward,” one said.
After walking off what his advisers called the “grandest stage in American politics” — the State of the Union, Obama will fly to Cedar Rapids to address his vision at Conveyor Engineering & Manufacturing is a 35-year-old company that started in a small shop outside Shueyville.
Today it is a custom manufacturer of stainless steel screw-type conveyors that meet FDA and USDA food grade quality requirements, according to President Graig Cone, whose father, Joe, started the company. It also makes vertical conveyors and screw presses used in wet corn milling, ethanol production, and manure and fertilizer manufacturing). Its customers include Cargill, Kellogg, Hormel Foods and GeorgiaPacific.
Conveyor Engineering & Manufacturing employs about 85 – a half dozen engineers and remainder are productions workers, Cone said. Employment peaked at about 100, but fell as the economy slowed.
“It’s slowly coming back,” he said.
Conveyor Engineering & Manufacturing’s connection to the ethanol industry plays into Obama’s second pillar — an American economy “fueled by homegrown and alternative energy sources that can be designed here, can create jobs here and lower costs for families and for people who are hiring and innovating and expanding jobs on our shores,” the Obama advisers said.
The advisers went on to cite the Obama bail out of the auto industry as an example of the administration’s efforts to preserve jobs as well as promote innovation and productivity.
In a recent session on in-sourcing, they said, the president heard from several executives that America is becoming more competitive with opportunities to create jobs and bring jobs back that have left the U.S. for cheaper foreign markets.
The other pillars of Obama’s State of the Union message will be skills for American workers and “a sense of fairness and a call to responsibility,” his advisers said.
New jobs created as America fights its way out of the recession will require higher skills. That will require an “all-out effort” that includes K-12, community colleges and higher education to prepare the workforce for the jobs of tomorrow.
As he did in a speech in Kansas late last year, Obama also will encourage basic values of “a fair share, a fair shot, with fairness for all and responsibility from all,” his advisers said.