INTRO: President Barack Obama came to Holland Michigan Thursday. He brought federal dollars to a South Korean company that will make electric car batteries. The company is bringing foreign tongues and faces. As Chris McCarus reports, racial diversity can help the economy.
Tea Party activists awaited the president along the township road. The 80 acres of dirt where the factory will go got a fresh gravel driveway for the motorcade, guest and media parking. People walked into tents through metal detectors leading to a makeshift movie theater. Trucks, bottled water, The Secret Service and South Korean men in black were plenty.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please give a very warm Holland Michigan welcome to the President of the United States, Barack Obama.”
“Through small business loans and investments in high tech fast growing sectors like clean energy, we’ve aimed to grow our economy by harnessing the innovate spirit of the American people.”
As the Americans in Holland, Michigan attract foreigners, the economy grows. Governor Jennifer Granholm told reporters that The South Korean and dozens of other governments are trying to do the same thing in their countries.
“I’m telling you, this is a strategic move. It will give Holland a competitive advantage for the next generation of batteries and the next generation after that.”
“But for the recovery act investments Michigan would not be seeing this plant. They would not be seeing JCI, the fellow plant here in Holland. They would not be seeing the 14 other battery plants that would choose Michigan.”
$151 million federal government dollars will help build this plant. In Congress, Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra voted against the stimulus package. The president hinted at this. The crowd noticed. But Hoekstra said,
“I came here because I respect the office of the president. I respect the company that’s making the investment here. I respect that this is my community.”
“I think it unites our community. It like brings everyone together. Because everyone’s behind it now.”
Five Holland High school students wore matching uniforms. They ushered guests to their seats.
“It’s something that brings light to our community and everyone’s more aware of each other.”
This white girl says she’s happy that LG Chem Company of South Korea has come. What’s wrong with another regular grocery or big box retailer?
“I think it’s because they’re from overseas that it means a lot more to people. Another country is looking to us to grow a new industry. It’s not just some Joe Schmo down the street opening a store. It’s a big company.”
This Korean girl adopted by white parents agrees.
“It’s great that they finally realized that there’s a compromise between shipping jobs entirely overseas and having solely American made factories.”
White House rules kept local media penned into one area. Efforts to get comment from the Korean company officials yielded this man:
“Ok my name is Teddy Lee. I’m a Korean. I’m a part of LG Chem and I’m in charge of PR.
Then he said he had to go. Another man spoke briefly then had to go.
“I am Cho. I’m in charge of PR in LG Chem.”
The last US Census shows the City of Holland is about 80% white. 20% Latino, 2% black and 3% Asian. Though the total listed on the chart exceeds100%. Ottawa County only lifted its ban last year on Sunday alcohol sales. So don’t kids still uphold conservative Dutch reformed values? The same white girl responds.
“I wouldn’t say that at all. Holland High school, it’s not mostly white. It’s minority. There is no racism that I’ve seen.”
A Mexican boy’s mother only speaks Spanish. He describes going to the grocery store.
“I mean every once in a while you kind of see a person that’s kind of like gives me a dirty look because I have to translate for my mom and my mom’s kind of confused. But for our school I love our school, I love our school. It’s pretty much the most diverse one that you’ll find around.”
When most of the hundreds of people had left the event, a Korean company official approached the 5 high school students. He shook their hands.