ABC News' Clayton Sandell and Sunlen Miller report: After a “vicious recession” and a “decade of irresponsibility” that was a “sledgehammer hitting the middle class” President Obama today touted that while there is still a long way to go, the nation is moving in the right direction economically.
“A year and a half ago, our economy was shrinking at 6 percent a year, now it's growing,” the president said from Kansas City, Missouri, “The economy was bleeding jobs. We've now created private-sector jobs, added private-sector jobs, for six consecutive months.”
Speaking from Smith Electric Vehicle’s 80,000 square-foot facility the president said that the progress made is not enough to undo the damage done as a consequence of the economic crisis.
“We're not there yet. We've got a long way to go. But what is absolutely clear is, we're moving in the right direction. We are headed in the right direction, and that's -- the surest way out of this storm is to go forward, not to go backwards.”
The president denounced the Republican Party – summoning up rhetoric reminiscent of “the party of no.”
“There's some people who argue that we should abandon some of these efforts, some people who make the political calculation that it’s better to just say no to everything than to lend a hand to clean up the mess that we've been in,” Obama said, “But my answer to those who don't have confidence in our future, who want to stop -- my answer is, come right here to Kansas City, come see what's going on at Smith Electric. I think they're going to be hard-pressed to tell you that you're not better off than you would be, if we hadn't made the investments in this plant.”
To those “naysayers” the president said that the Smith Electric plant demonstrates that the economy is in a different place today than it was one year ago, because -- he said – of the decisions by his administration.
“There is a thriving enterprise here instead of an empty, darkened warehouse Because of the grant that went to this company, we can hear the sounds of machines humming and people doing their work, instead of just the ghostly silence of an emptied-out building and -- and the memory of workers who were laid off a long time ago.”
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 that will be used by companies like Coca-Cola, AT&T, Staples, and Frito-Lay in their fleets.
The all-electric trucks should deliver significantly lower fuel costs, lower operating costs, and lower CO2 pollution than the largely diesel vehicles they will replace in fleets.
Recently the company just hired their 50th employee. “Through our small-business loans and our focus on research and development and our investment in high-tech, fast-growing sectors like clean energy we're helping to speed our recovery by harnessing the talent and the drive and the innovative spirit of the American people. So our goal has never been to create another government program. Our goal has been to spur growth in the private sector.”
The president said that all told, he expects his administration’s energy investments alone to generate 700,000 jobs over the next few years.
“This is not just going to boost our economy in the short term. This is going to lay a platform for the future.”
The president spoke on the brightly-lit factory floor against a backdrop of colorful Smith "Newton" electric vehicles bearing the logos of Frito Lay, AT&T and Coca Cola, along with a green and white Kansas City Power and Light utility truck directly behind the President. Another model that appeared ready for military use was painted a desert sand color.
The president received a tour of the battery-powered trucks being manufactured before his speech.
“This is the future right here,” he said.