Obama highlights auto industry recovery in KC visit - KCTV5 News

Obama highlights auto industry recovery in KC visit

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For the second time in less than two months, President Barack Obama is traveling to the area.

On Friday, he traveled to a Ford Motor Co. plant to talk about the economy, the auto industry and what lies ahead for the middle class.

Obama toured the auto manufacturer's new stamping plant in Liberty, which is located near the company's assembly plant in Claycomo.

Ford did not receive a government bailout during the Great Recession. Ford has seen tax incentives from Missouri to prevent Ford from moving the plant's operations out of state.

With the economic downturn, the community surrounding the Ford plant has seen their share of ups and downs.

For them, a new stamping plant, more jobs and the president's visit is definitely an up.

"It has been a roller coaster the last six years. It has been a real roller coaster, because when the Escape left, that was the low point. Are they going to keep building cars and trucks in Kansas City?" Jeff Wright, president of UAW Local 249, which represents Ford workers at its Kansas City plant, said he and many others wondered.

Up until five years ago, Wright worked across the street as a line worker at the assembly plant. Around that time, there were fears it would shut down.

The Escape was leaving, there was nothing coming in to replace it, and Ford plants across the country were closing.

"Definitely a low point," Wright said.

Wright fought for legislation to keep Ford committed and growing through the decade, and locked down a contract from Ford Motor Co. to invest $1.1 billion in the Kansas City area, including $110 million to build a new stamping plant.

"Today, we've got a new product. We're retooling the plant, the board's invested a billion dollars into Kansas City and the president is coming. Definitely a high point," he said.

During the president's visit, Obama is expected to give a speech on the economy.

The project is bringing 250 new jobs to the area to produce parts for the all-new Transit van, Liberty Mayor Lyndell Brenton said.

"Skilled jobs that are high-paying jobs, so that is a big boost to our economy, especially in a local economy at a time when we're starting to see some recovery," Brenton said.

It is already bringing more big business to the area.

"There is another supplier, LMV Automotive. They have a 250,000-square-foot facility on the north side of the city. It is about a $50 million initial investment. They brought 150 jobs, and they will be supplying parts for the assembly plant here," Brenton said.

And Ford's big investment shows it plans to stay put.

To be able to stamp Ford's own parts is a huge anchor for the assembly plant, Wright said, which means job security for line workers for another generation.

The stamping plant opens in October. Over the past year, the Claycomo assembly plant has also added a paint shop and a third shift.

In July, Obama also addressed the economy during an appearance in Warrensburg.

KCTV5 News will be bringing you Obama's speech live as it's happening on KCTV5.com. The president is expected to speak at 12:45 p.m. Friday You can also watch his departure and landing.

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