President Barack Obama used the expanding Intel manufacturing plant in Chandler as a backdrop on Wednesday to repeat his State of the Union call for more U.S. manufacturing.
The president told a crowd of about 6,000 that Intel's microchip plant represents the kind of industry and source of employment he wants to invest in to boost the economy.
"I'm here because the factory that's being built behind me is an example of an America that is within our reach, an America that attracts the next generation of good manufacturing jobs, an America where we build stuff and make stuff and sell stuff all over the world," he said.
Obama spoke at the massive Intel plant hear Ocotillo and Dobson roads, where the world's largest land-based crane can be seen from miles away as it constructs a $5 billion expansion.
Obama's roughly 20-minute speech was essentially a shorter version of his national address Tuesday, including calls for tax reform, more worker training and keeping jobs in the U.S. He even repeated his criticism of tax policies that allow billionaire Warren Buffett's secretary to pay a lower tax rate than the famous investor.
Obama noted 8 million jobs were lost in the recession, but took credit for more than 3 million new jobs created in the past 22 months. The controversial bailout of General Motors and Chrysler prevented the loss of 1 million jobs, he argued.
He said that 160,000 new jobs in the auto industry are proof that even old industries can be revived.
"Today, American manufacturers are hiring again and creating jobs for the first time since the 1990s, so our economy is getting stronger and we've come too far to turn back now," he said.
The president urged young people to study math and get engineering degrees so they could get the kind of high-paying jobs at manufacturers like Intel.
"It's an economy big on the skills of American workers, getting people the education and the training they need so they're prepared for the jobs of today and ready to compete for the jobs of tomorrow," he said. "But most importantly, it's an economy that's built on a renewal of American values, hard work, responsibility, the same set of rules for everybody from Wall Street to Main Street."
He mentioned increasing domestic energy production, including solar. He did not take note of Tempe-based First Solar, which is building a $300 million manufacturing plant in Mesa that is expected to employ 600 workers.
About 6,000 cheering Intel employees and others gathered at the Intel facility Wednesday afternoon. Surrounding streets had Obama supporters but also tea party protesters holding signs in view of the presidential motorcade.
The populist speech included references to creating an economy where the middle class can earn a decent living, send children to college and have enough for a comfortable retirement. That led to some humor as Obama noted the sunny day in Arizona, "where the weather is like this all the time," he said as the crowd chuckled. "It never gets above 70 degrees, does it?"
Obama walked into the crowd after his speech to shake hands. Dignitaries included Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.
"He chose Arizona and the East Valley, which is our partner in the city of Phoenix, to show support for manufacturing, for a company that is doing the right thing by investing in this country instead of doing the easy thing, which would be outsourcing," Stanton said. "I think that was the point of him being here."
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