Campaign touts Obama’s record on manufacturing

The Obama campaign held a conference call Friday to tout how great the president’s policies have been for manufacturing growth and job creation in California, but the call’s headliner never showed up and few California-specific examples were offered.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was supposed to be on the call, which was meant to mark the third anniversary of the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus package. Organizers later said a scheduling problem prevented Newsom from joining in.

Ro Khanna of Fremont, a former Assistant Deputy Secretary in the U.S. Department of Commerce – and the guy we recently noted is raising money like gangbusters for an eventual run in the 15th Congressional District – told reporters on the call that “this president will be known as the manufacturing president.”

While President George W. Bush’s administration presided over the loss of almost five million U.S. manufacturing jobs, almost 400,000 have been added since Obama took office, Khanna said. The president’s initiative to double American exports by 2015 is on track after its first two years, he added, and the president is following through on infrastructure investments, immigration policy for skilled workers, research and development, simplifying permitting processes and streamlining regulations.

Khanna cited Union City’s SimpleWave’s “inshoring” of its kitchen bowl production from China back to the United States – a story my competitors at the Chronicle already had today.

California Democratic Party Vice Chairman Eric Bauman introduced Rob Carpenter as a prime example of a California business owner who’d benefited from the president’s policies. Carpenter said the Small Business Job Act of 2010 allowed a flood of new investment into his e-commerce company, Hollywood-based FriendGiftR, which led to 1500% year-over-year growth. “It’s not time to return to the policies of the past, its time to continue to support the policies of the future,” Carpenter said.

When I asked Carpenter if he was the same guy who had worked in the White House Office of Political Affairs, he acknowledged he was. But Bauman quickly noted that Carpenter’s White House service had been during the Bush Administration, and yet he’s now speaking out on behalf of Obama. After the call, I checked and found that Carpenter is, in fact, registered to vote as a Republican.

Bauman cited a string of non-California-specific stats to bolster his pro-Obama case: 23 straight months of private-sector job creation, the explosive resurgence of the auto industry, and a national supply chain for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that the president was touting today in Everett, Wash..


$3.6 million for East Bay energy research

A pair of East Bay energy research projects will get almost $3.6 million from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the U.S. Department of Energy announced today.

These two were among 11 California-based projects selected to receive $22 million, in turn part $92 million offered to 43 projects nationwide under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus.

“These innovative ideas will play a critical role in our energy security and economic growth,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said in a news release. “It is now more important than ever to invest in a new, clean energy economy.”

flow_batteryLawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is getting $1,592,730 to develop a new flow-battery system for energy storage on the electric grid. Flow batteries pump reactive chemicals through the battery cell when electricity is needed; this project’s battery will use hydrogen and bromine as its active materials. Flow batteries have existed for decades, but have been plagued by high costs, short lifetimes, and safety concerns; LBNL hopes to refine the model.

And Primus Power of Alameda is receiving $2 million to develop new durable, inexpensive metal electrodes for flow batteries, which are often limited by their electrodes’ high cost and poor durability. Primus hopes to leverage processes developed for other chemical industries to develop novel, low-cost metallic flow battery electrodes, aiming for a five-fold decrease in costs and a doubling of the energy storage system’s power density.

“The country that leads the way in clean energy is the country that is going to lead the world,” U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in the Energy Department’s news release. “California is already emerging as a hub of the clean energy industry and the grants announced today will move us further in that direction.”

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, in whose district Primus Power lies, issued his own statement saying “the Recovery Act continues to pay dividends for our community. This money will fund the development of energy storage units that can make our power grid more efficient and are better suited to use power generated from renewable sources. This is more proof that the East Bay is a hub for green manufacturing jobs.”

The Energy Department had announced in November that Primus Power was getting $14 million for a wind energy “farm” that will store energy for the Modesto Irrigation District, replacing a planned fossil fuel plant; that project’s total cost is $46.7 million.


Lee touts Recovery Act, green jobs at Laney

Rep. Barbara Lee and an Obama Administration official praised an East Bay green-jobs training program this morning as a hotbed of California’s future economy.

Lee & Oates @ Laney 5-3-10 -- photo by Josh RichmanLee, D-Oakland, was joined for a press conference at Laney College by Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor. Lee had just toured the college’s Green Jobs Program, which prepares graduates for jobs in energy efficiency sales, retrofitting and auditing; renewable energy; and water conservation.

“It’s wonderful to see our tax dollars at work,” Lee said, noting Laney had received American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus funds for the program teaching “cutting-edge technologies that are going to help ensure our country becomes energy-independent.”

ARRA “really has been a lifeline for many communities,” she said, adding that her 9th Congressional District has received $1.9 billion under the legislation, the third-highest amount of any California district. “This is what it’s about – many communities have been left behind for so many years.”

Oates praised Peralta Community College District officials for making sure “that young and not-so-young people who come here … get the highest-quality education possible and get the real skill-set they need to get good jobs.”

Student Angela Davis, 38, said she has been homeless and unemployed but feels new hope because of the job training she’s receiving at Laney. “I thank you so much for this program.”

Another student – attending the College of Alameda through the Alameda Transportation and Logistics Academic Support (ATLAS) program, also funded in part through ARRA – said he was a truck driver carrying goods from the Port of Oakland for 21 years until losing his job last year due to new clean-air regulations. He said he’s learned more about truck mechanics and “green diesel” technology installation, maintenance and inspection in a few weeks than he had in 21 years of driving: “This is my second chance in life.”

Asked about recent reports that green job estimates might be over-optimistic, Oates said she has traveled the nation and seen great growth and opportunity in solar panels, wind turbines and other green manufacturing.

“The jobs are real, I’m not making those up,” she said, adding that if growth has been slower than expected, that’s because credit remains tight, not because the market isn’t there for green technology or because ARRA has been ineffective. “We’re trending toward our numbers … and I have seen the catalytic effect of those Recovery dollars.”

Emily Courtney, Laney’s Green Jobs Program coordinator, said she gets several requests per week from employers seeking people with the kind of training her students are getting, so she’s “very optimistic” about the job chances for her first batch of graduates finishing the program at the end of this month. She also said local residents should look into the many government financing, rebate and incentive programs for weatherization, solar-panel installation and other green retrofitting.

Oates earlier this morning had joined House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, to visit a training site for RichmondBUILD, a 14-week program teaching green construction techniques and standards, also funded in part by ARRA. She said she was told RichmondBUILD has placed 80 percent of its graduates into jobs; the program’s website says it’s 90 percent.


Stimulus money for California transit

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced $83.9 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for transit improvements in California.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, issued a statement:

“Once again, where local and state governments are unable to afford needed transportation improvements, we see the federal government stepping up in a big way. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act continues to put our country on a path to recovery through smart investments in transportation, education, health services, and other sectors, creating jobs for people throughout our communities. There is much more to do to fix our economy, but let there be no doubt, without ARRA, we would be in much worse shape and countless more Americans would currently be unemployed.”

And U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said “(t)hese critical investments will put Californians to work on transit projects that will ease congestion, improve air quality and speed Californians on their way to work and school.”

See a list of funding for Northern California projects, after the jump…
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Lee, Obama advisor tout stimulus in Oakland

Rep. Barbara Lee started the week by accompanying a White House official to tout economic stimulus spending in the East Bay, and she finished it the same way.

Lee and Jarrett 3-5-10 -- photo by Josh RichmanLee, D-Oakland, toured Oakland’s San Antonio Neighborhood Health Center on Friday morning with Valerie Jarrett, President Barack Obama’s Senior Advisor and Assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement.

La Clinica de La Raza, which operates this and 24 other community health centers in Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano counties, received $2.1 million in capital-improvement funds and $880,000 to support increased demand for services under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, not to mention $382,000 in other earmarks requested by Lee for facility improvements. CEO Jane Garcia said many of the patients served by La Clinica – which has more than 650 employees, at least 18 of whom were hired with Recovery Act money – are recently unemployed and uninsured.

Lee, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, said she and other caucus leaders met Thursday with President Obama to discuss health-care reform legislation, which in its current form carries another $11 billion for community health centers. It’s part of an overall philosophy that health care is “a basic human right rather than a privilege,” she said.

Jarrett praised the facility, calling it proof positive that the Recovery Act funds are being well-spent.

And Lois Watkins of Oakland, who said she has been a patient at the center since 1985, said that “to us seniors it’s a blessing, it’s a godsend;” she embraced Lee and Jarrett as staffers applauded.


The Recovery Act, one year later

Today is the one-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the rhetoric is flying hot and heavy.

The President’s Council of Economic Advisers, chaired by former Cal professor Christina Romer, estimates 256,000 California jobs were created or saved by the Recovery Act in 2009; more than $34.8 billion in Recovery funds have been made available to the state, with more than $22.4 billion already spent.

That includes $3.5 billion for 1,041 transportation projects; 5,663 Recovery Act-backed small business loans supporting more than $3.4 billion in lending; about $6.4 billion in tax relief for 12.6 million California working families through the Making Work Pay credit; expanded unemployment benefits for more than 2.5 million Californians; more than $1.3 billion in one-time economic relief payments of $250 each to more than 5.2 million California seniors, veterans, and other high-need residents; funding of almost $50,000 education positions; and more than $6.5 billion available to stave off additional MediCal cuts.

California’s unemployment rate remains at 12.4 percent, well above the 10 percent national rate, and Republicans’ mantra has become “Where are the jobs?” To that, the Obama Administration replies:

(click graph to enlarge)

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — grew at an annual 2.2 percent in 2009’s third quarter and 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter; compare that to minus 6.4 percent during the recession’s deepest point, 2009’s first quarter.

As Brad DeLong, a University of California, Berkeley economics professor and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, put it on the stimulus’ six-month anniversary, “(j)ob losses are a lagging indicator and will be three or four months behind what’s happening to production. You’ve got to turn production around before you can turn employment around.”

In other words, employment trends don’t turn on a dime, and it’s going to be a long slow slog back to pre-recession levels as employers regain their confidence enough to hire.

Lots of spin from both sides of the aisle, after the jump…
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