The executive director of the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers says his group will continue to help the Elkhart, Ind., area seek new federal funding sources, according to WSJV-TV, Elkhart.
Edward Montgomery made the comments during a stop late last Friday (April 2) in Elkhart. He hinted the area may be eligible for federal stimulus funds that still have not been allocated.
Montgomery was impressed with the efforts of Elkhart County to rebound in the national economic climate.
The visit included a roundtable discussion with Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore and other local business leaders, as well as a ride in a Think America electric car.
Meanwhile, Montgomery said President Barack Obama and his administration are dedicated to continued support of job building in communities like Elkhart, according to the Goshen (Ind.) News account of his visit.
According to Montgomery, the national unemployment numbers that were released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics gave evidence of progress, but not the end of the federal government’s work.
“This kind of progress is really suggestive of a strengthening economy, a stronger economy, but we’ve got more to do,” he said. “We’re not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination.”
Those statistics showed 162,000 jobs gained nationwide in March, although the unemployment rate stayed stagnant at 9.7 percent. Montgomery conceded that 48,000 of those jobs are explicitly temporary, created by the U.S. Census Bureau, and that weather had affected some other jobs.
“But I think even if you take those things out, you’re still left with growth in construction, growth in manufacturing, growth in business services, pretty much across the board,” he said. “And taking this month and tying it to what we’ve seen over the last two months, what it says is that the economy is slowly starting to heal. … When you think about it, we lost 750,000 jobs a month in the first quarter, and now we’ve gained jobs, about 50,000 jobs a month in this quarter. So it’s a big turn.”
He also said that the hiring of temporary workers is a leading indicator of strengthening business, and that some temporary jobs eventually become permanent positions.
Before the press conference, Montgomery had an opportunity to drive one of Think’s “City” electric cars, with Think North America Director of Product Development Keith Takasawa riding shotgun. Takasawa also pointed out the features of the vehicle to the previously skeptical Montgomery, who had wondered if it would feel “a little bit like a rubber band.”
“It feels just like a regular car,” he said. “You get in there, and other than not hearing the engine, it has good pickup, good acceleration, it drives around just fine. It was great, I really liked it, it was very nice.”
Montgomery said the president sees electric vehicles as part of the solution for several issues ranging from reducing emissions to reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. To that end, he said, the president has included a continuation of the federal advanced vehicle program in his proposed 2011 budget.
As for potential future stimulus awards for Elkhart and the surrounding area, Montgomery was generally hopeful.
“There is additional stimulus money that has still not been put out on a variety of different fronts,” he said. “So, all of the stimulus money is not done, infrastructure projects are not done, and I would expect Indiana and Elkhart would share in those.”
Included among the roundtable attendees were Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore, Takasawa and representatives from the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the chamber, Wightman Petrie, Rieth-Riley Construction, DLZ Indiana and the offices of Sen. Evan Bayh and Rep. Joe Donnelly.