Siemens Energy hosted the President at its newly expanded wind turbine blade factory at Fort Madison, Iowa, the first stop on the Midwest leg of Obama's Washington to Main Street Tour.
At the factory, Obama saw a blade for a 2.3 megawatt wind turbine in the process of manufacturing.
He then addressed an audience of 300 employees, visitors and local representatives, highlighting the Fort Madison plant as a successful example of how clean technology can help revive a local economy.
President Barack Obama speaks to employees at the Siemens Energy wind turbine blade factory in Fort Madison, Iowa. (Photo courtesy IowaPolitics.com)
"So you're manufacturing blades for some of the most advanced wind turbines in the world; each one as tall as Air Force One is long; each is capable of generating enough power for hundreds of homes, just by harnessing the wind," Obama said. "So what's going on here, what each of the employees of Siemens are involved with, is helping stake America's claim on a clean-energy future."
Siemens, a global company based in Germany, built the wind turbine factory three years ago on the site of a closed tractor-trailer manufacturing business.
Today, the turbine factory employs more than 600 workers, almost two-thirds of whom were previously unemployed, and supports more than 350 other jobs throughout Lee County.
The Siemens facility received a $3.5 million tax credit from America's Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2010 for creating clean energy manufacturing jobs, plus additional economic stimulus funds administered at the state level.
Siemens used this tax credit to secure additional blade molds and increase production of its next generation blade, which is designed to improve wind harvesting in low-wind conditions.
The market success of this innovative technology will enable growth for the renewables market in the United States and has contributed to the Fort Madison plant's ability to expand and nearly double employment, Siemens said in a statement today.
President Obama told the Siemens' audience that the tax credit to their factory directly enabled the growth of the U.S. wind energy industry.
"It allowed you to add equipment and boost output and hire new workers right here in Fort Madison," Obama said. "So in the midst of the economic turmoil, the Recovery Act helped make it possible for America to install nearly 10 gigawatts of new wind-generating capacity last year alone - and that's enough to power more than 2.4 million American homes."
"So when people ask you what was the Recovery Act about, what was the stimulus about, it was about this - this plant," he said.
Eric Spiegel, president and CEO of Siemens Corporation in the United States, congratulated the employees in the Fort Madison facility. "In just three years, they have quickly become a major U.S. supplier of high-quality wind turbine blades - in what we anticipate will be a promising industry supporting thousands of new jobs in a growing U.S.-based supply chain."
President Obama said his administration's investment in clean energy is the largest in U.S. history and is designed to ensure that other countries do not get the lion's share of jobs in the fast-growing renewable energy sector while Americans talk about energy security.
"While we talked, other nations acted," he said. "From Spain to China, other nations recognized that the country that leads the clean-energy economy will be the country that leads the 21st century global economy. They were making serious investments to win that race and the jobs that come with it."
"Some of you may have heard me say this before - I don't accept second place for the United States of America," Obama said to applause.
He sees a bright future for America's wind energy industry. "One study suggests that if we pursue our full potential for wind energy, and everything else goes right, wind could generate as much as 20 percent of America's electricity 20 years from now," Obama said.
Iowa has already reached the 20 percent mark and generates a higher percentage of its electricity from wind than any other state, Obama said.
Voters support increasing the use of wind power in the United States and adopting a strong Renewable Electricity Standard, according to a national poll released by the American Wind Energy Association on Earth Day.
The poll shows 89 percent of voters surveyed - including 84 percent of Republicans, 88 percent of Independents and 93 percent of Democrats - believe increasing the amount of energy the nation gets from wind is a good idea.
Conducted March 27-28 by Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies and Anna Bennett of Bennett, Petts & Normington, the poll sampled a national survey of 600 likely voters.
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