President tries to shift conversation in Cleveland
Visit to thriving plant highlights economic success, deflects healthcare controversy
By Ronnie Holman
The venue, ArcelorMittal plant in Cleveland, seemed to be the appropriate place to make a speech on the economy. For a large part the plant was revived because of the bailout of the auto industry.
There were various races, ethnic groups, ages young and old, white-collared and blue-collared workers, Democrats and Republicans. All had come out to see and hear what Obama had to say, especially in light of the Affordable Care Act’s rollout debacle.
ArcelorMittal, formally LTV Steel, is the largest steel manufacturing plant in the world and has the largest steelmill in Cleveland. The plant is a fully integrated steel making operation and it is located on the banks of the Cuyahoga River. With two blast furnaces, the plant can produce 3.8 million tons of raw steel yearly.
Margaret Krolikowski was hired into the company under LTV in 1986 and says the company went through a lot of ups and downs. The company went bankrupt in 2001 which caused the plant to completely shut down. In 2002 the plant re-opened and stayed open until the economy faced a recession in 2008. In 2008 the plant was shut down for a few months and some of their employees, like Krolikowski, with years of experience were transferred to Chicago not knowing if the plant would fire its furnaces up in Cleveland again.
“The first part of the time here it was more downs, the plant was completely cold because the company went bankrupt in 2001,” Krolikowski said. “To see the plant go from a place of being shut down and not knowing if it would re-open to being a show place that President Obama wants to come and see is just amazing.”
The plant does well because they make different types of steels from the ones made in the past. Advanced high strength steel is one of ArcelorMittal’s best products according to Krolikowski. The steel is used in the automotive industry for weight reduction to help get better gas mileage. Producing strong products will help the company with longevity.
“We are making steel’s that are two to three times stronger than traditional steel’s,” Krolikowski said. “We are planning steel’s now that we’re going to make in the year 2020.”
Karen Ramba knows a little history about ArcelorMittal, her husband is an employee of the company. Ramba says that LTV steel is an anchor in Cleveland but they struggled financially. A company named ISG came and helped to get the steel company back on their feet. LTV then was bought by Mittal steel until they merged with the company Arcelor and that how they became ArcelorMittal. The company is standing strong now and has brought so many jobs to the Cleveland area.
“The company has brought so many jobs back to Cleveland and supports so many families in Cleveland, it’s the heartbeat of Cleveland,” Ramba said. “You know the Browns are the heartbeat of Cleveland but so is the steel mill, it has a strong impact on our economy.”
At 3:40 p.m., the president made his light jog up the stage to stand in front of the podium to give his speech. The crowd that stood waiting for his arrival erupted. Obama started by shouting out “hello Ohio,” then he serenaded ArcelorMittal with tons of compliments and acknowledged the company as one of the biggest and most productive steel mills in Cleveland and the world. The president joked about everyone missing him say “I’m president Obama and I approve this message.” The crowd laughed and cheered the presidents sense of humor.
“In the past four years you have made yourselves one of the most productive steel mills not just in America but in the world,” Obama said. “This is one of the best steel mills in the world with the best employees in the world,”
The president used the plant as an example of how America is prospering and growing because of rejuvenating foundations because of a crisis just as the plant has done. The president said because the American people have been so resilient he has seen success stories like ArcelorMittal’s all across the country. In almost three years America businesses have created about 8 million new jobs and just last month they have put 200,000 people back to work in American.
“The story of this plant is the story of America in the last five years,” Obama said. “We haven’t just been recovering from a crisis, we have been trying to rebuild a new foundation for growth and prosperity to protect ourselves from future crisis.”
Obama talked to the crowd about the affordable healthcare plan and how he was displeased with the website. The website is being worked on so those who need affordable healthcare can look at what plan works best for them. He also eased the crowd by telling them why others who wanted to start a healthcare plan in the past for Americans, how difficult it was and that’s why it hadn’t been done before.
The president explained how Ohio governor, republican John Kasich thought that the affordable healthcare plan only made since and that’s why he is on board. He thought the rest of the country should use Ohio as a model in moving their affordable healthcare plan forward.
“We have to do everything we can to make sure everyone in America has access to affordable and quality healthcare,” Obama said. “We fumbled the ball as far as enrollment, but we always knew it would be hard because there’s a reason why people have been trying to do it for 100 years and hadn’t done it.”
Krolikowski believes the affordable healthcare plan needs some work but it is a good idea. She says if the plan is worked on more it can be good for some Americans.
“I think it still needs more bugs worked out,” Krolikowski said. “I think it’s a good idea but it’s not ready for prime time yet.”
For years the government has been trying to produce more oil over in the U.S. instead it continued to import oil from overseas and spend more money. New technologies have helped the country generate more natural gas than anyone in the world and oil is being generated, the most since 1995. Taking these steps make America more efficient in energy.
“I just found out yesterday that we generate more oil today than we’ve done since 1995,” Obama said. “Today we generate more renewable energy than ever, it makes our economy more energy efficient.”
The president finished his speech about affordable healthcare and motivating the crowd to stand together and continue to work at making the country a better place to live. Obama insisted that the affordable healthcare plan will work because he intends for everyone to have access to it.
“I will not walk away from 40 million people who have the chance to have affordable healthcare for the first time,” Obama said.
The president closed his speech by saying God bless American as the crowd erupted and was delighted that he came and gave them what the intended to hear. Melvin Beard a Cleveland resident and an employee at the company for 37 years, walked out with a smile on his face feeling the president restored hope in America just as ArcelorMittal has in Cleveland.
“The president was great, he praised the plant, he praised the workers and he touched everything from healthcare to jobs,” Beard said. “He needs backing from everybody for things to work.”