When I became Labor Secretary two and a half years ago, our economy was in a free fall. The financial system was on the verge of meltdown. Entire industries were being threatened and two of the “Big 3” automotive makers were on the verge of bankruptcy. Middle class workers didn’t know whether they were going to get a paycheck or a pink slip.
President Obama chose to put faith in American business and he bet big on the American auto industry. Since then, a million auto jobs have been saved, the auto industry has created 115,000 new jobs since GM and Chrysler restructured, and all of the “Big 3” gained market share for the first time in 16 years.
Our efforts helped many auto plants stay open. But GM and Chrysler still had to make tough decisions to close or idle plants. When these plants shut their doors, it affected so much more than just the workers at the facility. It also impacted suppliers, local businesses, and the surrounding community.
So in March of 2009, President Obama created the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers to help hard-hit communities access the government resources and services that would help them recover and thrive.
Yesterday, I had the chance to visit one of these communities in Flint, Michigan. What I saw was an incredible story of transformation and rebirth, and of what can happen when we put faith in American business and American workers.
I saw it at the Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy — one of the fastest growing healthcare companies in the U.S. – where former auto workers in a space once devoted to auto manufacturing are now manufacturing medicine and coordinating healthcare.
I saw it at Blackstone’s Pub & Grill – a Flint diner that has created jobs and is a community hub.
And I saw it at the Flint-Genesee Job Corps Center, where displaced auto-workers and their children are getting a second chance and a fresh start.
Our efforts are making a difference for America’s auto workers and the communities they call home. The President knows that, and while I was in Flint I had the privilege of announcing the person he picked to lead this effort as Director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers – Jay Williams.
Williams has served as Mayor of Youngstown, Ohio since 2006. He is the youngest and first African American Mayor in the city’s history and is committed to transforming and reshaping communities.
I’m proud of the progress we’ve made already, but we still have so much more we can and we will do for America’s auto communities with Williams’ help on our DOL team.