EVERETT — President Barack Obama today toured Boeing’s factory in Everett and praised the company and its workers for helping to bring “jobs and manufacturing back to America.”
Obama called the 787 Dreamliner “the plane of the future.” He noted its heavy use of composite materials makes it “lighter, faster, and more fuel efficient than any airplane in its class. And it looks cool.”
The president praised the way company and union leaders worked together to make the 787 a reality, and he said Boeing’s focus on quality is a key competitive edge in the global market.
“What’s happening here in Everett can happen in other industries,” he said. “It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh.”
Obama was introduced by a Boeing machinist. He also singled out Sharon O’Hara, an executive office administrator for the leaders of the Dreamliner team.
The president called attention to a comment O’Hara made when the first Dreamliner took wing.
“As Sharon watched the first plane lift gently off the runway, just like it was designed to do, she thought about everything that had gone into making that day possible — all the challenges and setbacks; the thousands of hours of brainpower and manpower and womanpower,” Obama said. “In her words, ‘I had goose bumps and tears. We said we would do it and we did.’”
“You said you would do it, and you did,” Obama said. “That’s what we do as Americans. That’s the spirit we need right now. In this country, we don’t give up – even when times are tough.”
Obama used his Everett visit to draw attention to the importance of manufacturing and U.S. exports. He also was here to raise some campaign cash.
Obama is the first serving U.S. president to visit Snohomish County in nearly two decades. Then-president Bill Clinton visited Paine Field on Feb. 23, 1993, to meet with Boeing workers.
Air Force One arrived Friday at Paine Field right on schedule just ahead of 10:45 a.m.
Obama was greeted on the tarmac by Gov. Christine Gregoire, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine.
Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon was not among the Obama greeting party. Instead, he was waiting with the crowd in the factory.
“This is a great day. The President is in Snohomish County to talk about the manufacturing jobs he wants to create and he’s using this place as a showcase. Yes, this is a great day,” Reardon said.
Obama walked through a 787 with Boeing’s top brass, Jim McNerney and Jim Albaugh, and he posed for photographs with factory workers.
O’Hara, 58, a 20-year employee, attended at the invitation of the White House. She’d been told in advance that the president would be using her quote.
Pete Cantero, who leads a shift in the factory, was eager for today’s visit.
“It’s been very exciting,” he said, adding that employees were “absolutely pumped up” about the visit.
As word spread that Obama was about to arrive in the factory, people began standing on tiptoes hoping to catch sight. Earlier in the morning, Bob Drewel recalled Clinton’s visit. At the time, Drewel was Snohomish County executive.
It was “a knee-knocking event,” he said.
Many of those gathered in the factory before Obama’s arrival took a few moments to snap photographs of themselves and loved ones in front of backdrop of Boeing planes and a giant U.S. flag.
Air Force One landed at Paine Field’s south ramp A, not far from Boeing’s flight line. Nearby were a veritable United Nations of jets headed for airlines around the globe: Germany, Morocco, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.
A ceiling of silver clouds allowed just enough of a clearing to the east to reveal the peaks of the Cascade Range. Closer in, black-clad anti-sniper teams were visible on a berm not far from the tarmac.
Everett police were out in force.
Police Chief Kathy Atwood was moving among her officers, checking in and making certain that they had water, she said.
“My guys had to be here at 4:30 this morning so I figured I should be here at 4:30 this morning too,” Atwood said.
Obama used the Boeing visit to announce a number of new steps to promote American manufacturing. Those include:
• More financing for companies that compete for overseas business.
• Global Credit Express, a program designed to help small business exporters access short-term lines of credit, increasing their ability to compete.
• Simplifying the hurdles needed to create foreign trade zones.
• Legislation to encourage exports.
• Launching BusinessUSA, which was described as “a virtual one stop shop that makes it easier for America’s businesses to access the services and information they need to help them grow, hire and export.”
Access to the Paine Field area was restricted during Obama’s visit and people should expect road closures and traffic delays in the area throughout the day and into the evening.
Obama’s visit is part of a three-day political trip that started Wednesday in Milwaukee, Wis. The trip also includes fundraisers for Obama’s re-election campaign.
His visit to Everett came at a time when business at Boeing is booming. The company added thousands of jobs last year and has plans to increase aircraft production in Everett and Renton.
Organizers this morning said Obama planned to depart for the Eastside at 1 p.m. by helicopter, or motorcade if weather is bad. Two events are planned this afternoon — a $17,900-per-peson brunch hosted by Susan Jeff Brotman, a co-founder of Costco Wholesale Corp. and a $1,000-per-person event at the Bellevue Westin Hotel.
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