President Obama stresses “Made in America” during Milwaukee visit
President Obama came to Milwaukee with a message focused on three words — “Made in America.”
“Products stamped with three proud words — Made in America. That’s our goal,” he said.
In his first visit to Wisconsin in more than a year, the President spoke for about 25 minutes at the Master Lock plant on N. 32nd St. in Milwaukee after touring the facility. His speech focused on American manufacturing and the need and incentive for companies to “insource” jobs, like what was recently done at Master Lock, with about 100 jobs returning from China to Milwaukee.
The President recently held a summit with Master Lock CEO John Heppner and other business leaders who have decided to insource jobs, with the goal to better understand and accelerate the recent trend of insourcing. In his speech on Wednesday, he made it clear that providing incentives for companies to insource is a “top priority” of his administration.
Master Lock containers with “Made in the U.S.A.” stickers were stacked behind the stage in the plant, where several hundred employees gathered to hear the President speak. To the right of the stage, a large banner read “An America Built To Last.”
John Heppner and UAW Local 469 representative John Drew also spoke at the event, and many Wisconsin Democrats were also on hand, including former Governor Jim Doyle, Rep. Gwen Moore, Mayor Tom Barrett, County Executive Chris Abele, State Senators Lena Taylor and Peter Barca, and Ald. Willie Hines.
Both Barrett and Hines said there could be more opportunities for insourcing jobs in Milwaukee.
“Hopefully, policymakers in Washington will pass the necessary policies to allow for companies to come back home and manufacture here,” said Hines. “We’re still battling a difficult economy, and the reality is that we still have to be creative.”
Obama’s speech emphasized the recent indicators of recovery in America’s manufacturing sector, and also urged further steps for Congress to take to aid in economic recovery. In addition to the agreement to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance, Obama talked about ways to reform the tax code to eliminate incentives for outsourcing.
“Right now companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas” he said. “They’re taking deductions for the expenses of moving out of the United States. Meanwhile, companies that are doing the right thing and choosing to stay here, they get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world.
“That doesn’t make sense. Everybody knows it doesn’t make sense. Politicians in both parties have been talking about changing it for years, so my message to Congress is: Don’t wait. Do it now.”
Another of Obama’s goals toward recovery is to double exports over the next five years, which he said is a goal that is being met “ahead of schedule.” He also said that he has directed his administration to create a trade enforcement unit to investigate “unfair trade practices” to ensure that there is a “level playing field.”
Another point Obama made in his speech was about creating the type of educational environment to prepare individuals for manufacturing work, something that is of great concern to Master Lock employee Mike Schuknecht.
Schuknecht, a lifelong Milwaukee resident who has worked as a machinist for the company for 20 years, said though he leans more Republican than Democrat, he agreed with what the President had to say about the need to bring jobs back, but raised concerns over the number of properly trained applicants coming to work at Master Lock.
“They’d rather work in the malls,” he said. “Manufacturing is not for everybody. It’s a tough job, but it’s a good-paying job.”
Speaking before the President was introduced, both John Drew and John Heppner cited the importance of unions to Master Lock’s recent success.
“Without UAW (United Auto Workers) 469, we would not have Master Lock here in Milwaukee,” said Drew. “[This is] a great example of a company and a union working together.”
Though Obama has not visited Wisconsin since before Gov. Walker introduced the controversial budget repair bill, the President focused on manufacturing on a national scale, and did not make any mention of state politics, Gov. Walker, or the recall effort. Though Gov. Walker was scheduled to tour the Master Lock plant with the President, he cancelled his visit due to illness. However, Walker and Mayor Barrett greeted Obama at Mitchell International Airport and presented him with a personalized Milwaukee Brewers jersey.
Full video of the speech is now available at the White House Channel on YouTube.