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White House Mayors’ Manufacturing Community Summit

Secretary Anthony Foxx

White House Mayors’ Manufacturing Community Summit

Washington, DC • December 5, 2013

Thank you, Molly [Ward], for the introduction. And thank you all for coming.

Being around so many mayors, it makes me still feel like I’m part of the club.

And I want to especially thank our panelists, all leaders of manufacturing towns and regions: Commissioner Brooks and Mayors Bernero, Glover, and Walling.

This afternoon, I’d like to kick off our discussion with a story about another manufacturing city – the city of Louisville.

Louisville, as some of you may know, is home to General Electric’s historic Appliance Park.

About fifty years ago, in the Park’s heyday, it employed tens of thousands of workers and assembled about 60,000 appliances a week.

In the years since though, production has fallen. Two years ago, employment dropped below 2,000. As one journalist from The Atlantic put it, Appliance Park “appeared less like a monument to American manufacturing, than a memorial to it.”

That, at least, was how things looked in 2011.

Then, in 2012, something happened:

Someone flipped a switch.

Last year, for the first time in 55 years, Appliance Park began running a new assembly line. Refrigerators and washing machines started leaving the loading docks again, and cars started showing up in the parking lot. 

Of course, Louisville isn’t the only place this is happening. This is just one chapter in larger success story chronicling the resurgence of American manufacturing writ large.

At DOT, we’ve been proud to play a part in that story. Our Buy America program ensures that American infrastructure is built by American workers using American products.

That said, none of us are here just to applaud the process we’ve made.

In many ways, the President has invited us here to think about the next chapter of this manufacturing renewal: about how those fridges and washing machines get from the loading dock to the store – and about how those workers get from the parking lot back home.

After all, as manufacturing changes, the transportation system that connects those manufacturers to markets needs to change, as well.

By 2050, America’s transportation system will have to haul 14 billion more tons of goods and freight – roughly the weight of 40,000 Empire State Buildings.

So the challenge is how can we build our transportation system’s capacity to match that economic growth?

How can we make sure that more people get from homes to factories, and more products get from factories to homes?

Well, that is what the President and I are working on.

In fact, we’ve begun to design something that the United States has never had before: a national freight plan – a plan that turns America’s roadways, railways, runways, lakes, rivers, and waterways into one seamless system that delivers goods faster and safer.

This, of course, is just the beginning of our work. And none of this will happen if it’s our work alone.

Because our goal isn’t just to make the trains run on time – or the trucks leave on schedule. It’s to understand where and when it’s more efficient to invest in rail rather than a road – or a road rather than a waterway.

And you know the facts on the ground better than most.

That’s why we need your support and your effort. Because only together can we ensure that what’s happening at Appliance Park – and across the country – isn’t an endnote, or a footnote… but, instead, a first page.

So with that, let me kick off the discussion and invite our panelists to give some opening remarks.

Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014