The White House today is pushing President Obama's plans to fix the economy. The president is going back to a place that was devastated by the recession: Elkhart, Indiana. Unemployment there is nearly 17%. That is up ten points since last year.
So do people there have any hope that an economic recovery is on the way? Elkhart’s mayor, Dick Moore, spoke to John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Wednesday.
John Roberts: We should point out that … Elkhart, Indiana, is famous as the RV capital of America. Let’s talk about what’s been happening there. Unemployment was up around 18%, a little more than 18% for a while earlier this year. It's down a little bit to about 16.8%. Is this any kind of effect of the stimulus that the president had passed earlier this year? What's the situation there now in Elkhart?
Dick Moore: Well I certainly think so. I remember the comment that doing nothing is absolutely not an option. And I do believe something has to be done. And I think we're experiencing the effects of what has been done at this time. Here in Elkhart we're seeing some spending has increased. The economic indicators are up. And the city actually – we went to beyond 20% in unemployment. Meaning one out of every five of us was out of a job. We bettered that some by a couple of percents now. Something is happening here.
Roberts: How much money did you get from the stimulus? What kinds of projects were launched as a result of that?
Moore: The city of Elkhart has received … $14 million. We just completed a runway renovation – our main runway was completely repaved – 6500 feet long, about a $4.2 million project, putting a lot of people to work. We're ready to cut a ribbon on that tomorrow. We'll begin our combined sewer overflow remediation program with another $4.2 million. Altogether – we have some neighborhood stabilization money, we have some money for our police department – totaling as I said before nearly $14 million. And in Elkhart County, I think, it amounts to about $38 million totally in Elkhart County.
Roberts: So you'll be meeting with the president this morning before his meeting. What do you plan to tell him?
Moore: Well, first of all I'm going to say thank you because something certainly is working. All the news that we're getting is improving news. We know he's not coming here to give us bad news. We know he's got something to say that is going to be interesting, good for us, and productive for us. So the first thing I would say to him is thank you. It's been my privilege to speak to the president before on three different occasions. I'm looking forward to talking with him again. I told him once before that sometime I'm going to have him come back here, he and I are going to sit down and talk about our success stories. And I think maybe we're beginning to get to a place where we're going to be able to do that. We're not at the end of the tunnel, but we're starting to see a little light here.
Roberts: The president is going to be there to announce federal funds for advances in battery technology. Is there any way your town can take advantage of some of that money?
Moore: Certainly. We're searching out and seeking industry hybrid technology – more electric motor technology, more green stuff all the time. Batteries have become a very important part of all that. Without the way we’re building batteries today a lot of things operating today would not be possible. So more battery improvement is absolutely necessary and it’s going to be a great benefit to this area.
Roberts: As we said, Elkhart is famous as the RV capital of the world. I saw an RV lot in Georgia not too long ago, just overflowing with inventory. People are cutting back and looking for more fuel efficient vehicles. Is the RV industry viable anymore?
Moore: Absolutely it is. The person that wanted that RV 15 months ago when gasoline prices went up to $4 or $5 and when banking availability became less and less, they have not lost the desire for the vehicle. America is not giving up on its recreational activities, is not giving up on its travel. This industry will come back and it will come back very, very strongly. I think what's going to happen is beyond people's perception. It's going to come back a lot quicker than we thought. Already some of the RV manufacturers are hiring people back. The object here and what’s happening here is putting people back to work, putting spending power back in their pockets so they can buy something. And with bank availability, they'll buy these units again and then somebody else can produce one. And then somebody else can produce the parts and pieces and the items to produce one. And somebody else can supply the raw materials. So when you put one person back to work you really put five people back to work.
Roberts: Last time we talked to you was back in February. Glad to see things are slightly better than they were back then and we certainly hope things continue to get better for folks there.
Moore: Thank you. We're very optimistic.