Today, President Barack Obama spoke with workers at Smith Electric Vehicles' new factory in Kansas City, Mo. With a $32 million grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act [ARRA], coupled with $36 million in private capital, the electric-vehicle company is building up to 500 all-electric trucks.
While he was there, the President [pictured above with Smith Electric executives] also had the pleasure of announcing the company was hiring its 50th worker at the plant. By September, that number is expected to grow to 70 and, at the project’s peak, Smith says the project will create more than 220 direct and indirect jobs.
"Just a few years ago, America had the capacity to build only about two percent of the world’s advanced batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles like Smith’s -- two percent, that was it," President Obama told a crowd of Smith Electric employees and guests. "We account for 25 percent of the world’s economy, and we were only making two percent of the world’s advanced batteries.
"But, thanks to our new focus on clean energy and the work that’s taking place in plants like this one, we could have as much as 40 percent of the world’s market by 2015 -- five years. That means jobs. But that also means we’re going to have an expertise in a sector that’s just going to keep on growing all around the world for years to come. So, all these efforts taken together are making a difference."
The story of Smith’s factory shows the direct and measurable impact of the Recovery Act. Smith’s factory is repurposing an 80,000-square-foot jet-engine overhaul facility at the Kansas City International Airport -- a space that was not being utilized or creating jobs is now a fully operational plant.
Along with creating new jobs and breathing life back into this facility, this project is helping demonstrate that electric-drive cars and trucks are real. Fleet customers like Coca-Cola and AT&T will test the vehicles, realizing they can save money over diesel-powered trucks with lower fuel costs.
Without government-supported demonstrations, these companies would likely have waited years before testing a new technology -- especially during an economic downturn. Like any technology, these first demonstrations will help lower the cost, as companies perfect the manufacturing assembly processes and begin operating on a larger, more cost-efficient scale.
Proposed "Green Impact Zone" Would Fuel Sustainability in Kansas City Community
Smith Electric’s story is only one piece of a much broader Recovery Act puzzle unfolding in the Kansas City area. Early this year, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver [D-Mo.] developed a plan for a Green Impact Zone to be established in a 150-block area in the city. The goal is to create a sustainable community -- i.e., one that is environmentally, economically and socially stronger tomorrow than it is today.
Here are a few of the highlights:
* Weatherization: In Kansas City, stimulus funds have been used to finish weatherization work at almost 200 residences in the last few months.
* Energy Efficiency: Kansas City will use its community block grant funds to undertake a number of projects to enhance energy efficiency across the city -- including energy-efficiency upgrades of several major buildings. The city anticipates these activities to create or retain more than 200 jobs.
* Modernizing the Electric Grid: Kansas City Power and Light won a $24 million grant to support a $48 million smart grid demonstration project.
* Science and Innovation: Kansas City-based EaglePicher Corporation, in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, won a $7.2 million ARPA-E award to develop a new generation of high-energy, low-cost planar liquid sodium beta batteries for grid-scale electrical power storage applications.
* Advanced Vehicle Technology: The Metropolitan Energy Center’s Midwest Region Alternative Fuels Project was awarded nearly $15 million as part of the Clean Cities program to develop 27 alternative-fuel stations, and deploy 373 alternative-fuel and advanced-technology vehicles.
Through collaboration with industry leaders, nonprofits, universities, and federal/state/local-government leadership, Smith Electric and Kansas City are demonstrating the opportunities for communities across the country to develop a clean and renewable-energy economy.
"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," President Obama noted towards the end of today's remarks. "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 read the full text of remarks that President Obama made today regarding the economy and the success of Smith Electric Vehicles and other young green-energy small businesses and initiatives, go to: http://bit.ly/ObamaSmithElectric.
For more information on the Recovery Act’s work in Missouri, please visit the Department of Energy's website: http://bit.ly/MissouriRecoveryAct.
To learn more about how clean-energy small businesses are helping to drive our nation's economy forward, go to: http://bit.ly/SmallBizCleanEnergy.
SOURCES: U.S. Department of Energy, The White House [photo by Pete Souza]
Go Green with Interstate Batteries. [affiliate link]