Obama Touts Government Investment in Electric Vehicle Factory

President Barack Obama said a $32 million government grant to a maker of battery-driven trucks is an example of how government funding can help businesses generate jobs as the nation recovers from a “brutal recession.”

“Government doesn’t have all the answers, and it cannot generate the jobs or growth we need by itself,” Obama will say today after touring the Smith Electric Vehicles factory in Kansas City, Missouri. “But government can lay the foundation for small businesses to expand and hire,” he will say, according to a text of his prepared remarks released by the White House.

Obama is on a two-day trip to Missouri and Nevada to stump for his economic policies and raise money for Democratic Senate candidates. Tomorrow he’ll also give a speech on the economy in Las Vegas.

The economy, jobs and the deficit are likely to be top issues in the November elections that will decide control of Congress. Obama today defended the $862 billion economic stimulus measure Congress passed soon after he took office, which Republicans have criticized as wasteful. And as he has stepped up his defense of his own policies, he has increased his attacks on Republicans.

‘Political Calculation’

“There are those who argue that we ought to abandon our efforts - and others who have made the political calculation that it’s better to obstruct than lend a hand,” Obama said in his speech text. “They ought to tell the workers of Smith Electric that we’d be better off if your jobs didn’t exist.”

The U.S. economy is struggling to recover from the worst recession since the 1930s, with 83,000 private jobs added in June and unemployment at 9.5 percent.

Without the government action, Obama said the economy faced “a nosedive that threatened to drag us into a second Great Depression.” He said he expects energy investments alone to “generate 700,000 jobs over the next few years” nationwide.

The administration has highlighted government’s investment at Smith Electric, which was matched by $36 million of the company’s money, as an example of how the government can help the private sector create jobs.

The Smith Electric factory will eventually employ about 70 people and build about 500 battery-powered commercial trucks per year, Matt Rogers, an adviser to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, told reporters yesterday.

Purchase Capital

“The intent of the funding here is to enable Smith to purchase the capital equipment necessary to get this manufacturing assembly line operational,” he said.

The company plans to build as many as 20 factories around the country.

“This is a microcosm of precisely what needs to keep happening,” said Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser.

Later today in Kansas City, Obama will attend fundraisers for Missouri Democratic Senate Candidate Robin Carnahan in Kansas City.

Tonight he’ll raise money in Las Vegas for Harry Reid of Nevada, the top Democrat in the Senate, and tomorrow he’ll give a speech on the economy before returning to Washington.

To contact the reporters on this story: Nicholas Johnston in Kansas City, Missouri, at njohnston3@bloomberg.net;

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