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Secretary Ray LaHood Remarks at Proterra Assembly Plant Greenville, South Carolina

I just finished my tour of Proterra’s assembly plant and I must say: This is the touchstone example of what President Obama talked about in his State of the Union Address on Tuesday night.

The president said that for America to compete and win in the 21st century, our small businesses have to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build their competition.

Well, Proterra is doing all three.  You’re researching and developing innovative transit technology that will reduce fuel costs, oil dependence, and air pollution.  You’re investing in a new plant at Clemson University, where you’ll collaborate with some of the brightest minds on campus and train the next generation of transportation engineers and scientists.  And you’re building the world’s first all electric fast-charge buses – while creating quality jobs for our families, friends, and neighbors.  Today, Proterra has more than 120 people on payroll.  By the end of the year that number will increase to more than 350.

Now, I’m proud that the Department of Transportation and Federal Transit Administration were able to help this remarkable American business get going.  FTA provided crucial seed money for Proterra’s R&D.  And we gave additional resources that helped your suppliers manufacture the materials and components necessary to make both sophisticated electric batteries and the charging stations that go with them.

Still, the Proterra story doesn’t just illustrate how government can deliver the extra little boost that helps an entrepreneur turn a bold idea into a transformational product.  Your story demonstrates what happens when ordinary people dream big and build big.

On Tuesday night, President Obama called on each of us to tap into America’s great tradition of doing big things not just in spite of hardships, but as a way of overcoming them.  I couldn’t be happier to be here with you this afternoon – and to celebrate Proterra’s enormous success doing exactly that.

Thursday, January 27, 2011