Obama visits SW Michigan advanced battery plant

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP) ? President Barack Obama used his visit Thursday to an advanced battery plant in southwestern Michigan to promote his program to create jobs through clean energy.

Obama toured a Johnson Controls Inc. plant in Holland that makes batteries for alternative-fuel vehicles such as hybrid or electric cars and trucks.

Johnson Controls has received a $300 million federal grant and expects to create 150 jobs at facilities in Michigan and Wisconsin, White House energy adviser Heather Zichal said.

Michigan’s unemployment rate was 10.5 percent in June, and Obama has promoted the job-creation benefits of spending money on producing such clean-energy technologies as advanced batteries.

“At a time when Americans are rightly focused on our economy, when Americans are asking about what’s our path forward, all of you here at Johnson Controls are providing a powerful answer,” Obama said. “This is one of the most advanced factories in the world. You’re helping America lead in a growing new industry.”

Obama press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the batteries are among the innovative technologies crucial in “helping automakers achieve the historic fuel economy standards, establishing U.S. leadership in advanced vehicle manufacturing, spurring economic growth and creating high-quality domestic jobs in cutting-edge industries across America.”

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. said in a statement that Obama’s second visit to Holland in 13 months “brings national attention to Michigan’s leadership in advanced battery production and green vehicle manufacturing and the new jobs these plants will bring here.”

Some Boy Scouts were on hand, and they said they were impressed by the high-tech theme.

“It’s an investment in the future,” said Armaan Dandavati, 17, of Holland. “The building itself helps provide jobs, which is immediate. But the products that they are building and that the facility here develops will continue to aid the economy.”

“You have to start somewhere,” said Zach Rolinski, 18, who had a summer job with Johnson Controls. “A building like this with so much attention from leaders, it will allow a good start and allow it to get on the right track. It will offer more growth from there.”