By Arun Kumar
Washington: President Barack Obama chose a plant owned by Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal that is the largest supplier of steel to the US auto manufacturing sector to tout his administration’s work to spur economic growth.
“I want to thank your CEO, Lakshmi Mittal, for investing in America and the Cleveland area. We appreciate him,” Obama said amid applause from workers in yellow hard hats at ArcelorMittal’s steel factory in Cleveland, Ohio, Thursday.
“The story of this plant is the story of America over the last five years,” Obama said. “We haven’t just been recovering from a crisis. What we’ve been trying to do is rebuild a new foundation for growth and prosperity to protect ourselves from future crises.”
Obama told the workers they were “an example of what we do when we put our minds to it”.
“Over the last 44 months, our businesses have created 7.8 million new jobs. Last month, another 200,000 Americans went back to work,” he said amidst applause.
“And a lot of those jobs are in manufacturing. So, now we’ve got more work to do to get those engines of the economy churning even faster,” he said.
Just a few years ago the economy was in free fall and the auto industry was on the brink of collapse, Obama noted.
With the demand for steel drying up early, 1,200 steelworkers were furloughed from the factory when the Obama administration stepped in to bail out the auto industry to help it start growing again.
“We rolled up our sleeves, we made some tough choices,” Obama said. “We rescued and retooled the American auto industry; it saved more than a million jobs.”
“We bet on American ingenuity and American workers. And assembly lines started humming again, and automakers started to make cars again,” he said.
“And just a few months after this plant shut down, your plant manager got the call: Fire those furnaces back up, get those workers back on the job.”
“And over the last four years, you’ve made yourselves one of the most productive steel mills not just in America, but in the world,” he said.
Today, ArcelorMittal’s Cleveland plant is a global leader in producing the advanced high-strength steel that automakers are demanding for newer, more fuel efficient cars and trucks.
Obama quoted one of the plant’s engineers, who said that “when we came back, we wanted to make sure we were in a position where we never shut down again”.
And so the company has invested in state-of-the-art technology, while making sure workers are constantly upgrading their skills.
The White House said Obama’s visit was in recognition of ArcelorMittal not only reviving the plant and bringing back people who had lost their jobs during the economic crisis, but also for creating new jobs.