Biden Touts Stimulus For GE Plant Revival

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Vice President Joe Biden cheered a sprawling appliance factory's revival Monday while giving some of the credit to tax breaks offered under the federal stimulus program to spur private investment and job creation in energy-friendly initiatives.

With his shirt sleeves rolled up in a sweltering General Electric Co. plant, Biden also took a swipe at critics of the massive stimulus effort. Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate Rand Paul, who lambasts government spending, appeared to be among the targets, though Biden didn't mention names.

Biden spoke to cheering factory workers at GE's Appliance Park, where the company is making a $600 million investment to expand into three new product lines -- a venture expected to add 830 jobs by 2013.

The investment is backed by $24.8 million in tax credits the company received as part of the economic recovery act to retrofit and retool the facility to produce the energy-efficient products.

"We're laying a new foundation for a new economy with investments like the one we're highlighting today," Biden said while visiting the dishwasher plant, where production halted for his appearance.

Biden said the $2.3 billion in tax credits being awarded under the recovery act to expand clean-energy manufacturing will yield nearly $5.5 billion in private-sector investments that will spur job creation.

"So those who talk about this is big government, this is big government giving a little bit of help to jump start America to lead the world in the 21st century," Biden said.

The initiative will help create good-paying jobs and protect the environment while restoring the United States as "a nation that builds things again," he said.

GE's expansion plans at its 900-acre Appliance Park include production of new hybrid electric water heaters starting in 2011, followed by a new line of washing machines in 2012 and matching driers the following year. The work force stands at about 4,100 at Appliance Park, down from a peak of nearly 23,000 in the 1970s.

Paul Jantzen, a maintenance worker at GE, said the tax credits were helpful in bringing jobs back to Appliance Park, where morale was "pretty low" just a year or two ago. Jantzen said he thinks the stimulus has helped the overall economy, but said "it hasn't trickled down as much as we would like."

"I think the policies are in place, we just have to be a little patient," he said.

Biden took aim at stimulus critics, chiding candidates who he said think the government should "sit on the sidelines" as the nation's economy tries to rebound from its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

"I love those guys who say that government should stay out when we're in deep crisis, like some of the people you're hearing from in this state and other places," Biden said.

Paul's campaign took its own swipe at the vast economic stimulus package, which has a long-term cost of $862 billion. Paul, a libertarian-leaning Republican, is running against Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, who missed Biden's appearance because of a previously scheduled trip to Washington, D.C. Conway's wife, Elizabeth, attended the Biden event.

"Government is not very good at creating jobs," Paul's campaign said in a statement. "President Obama's stimulus package cost $413,000 per job created and those jobs largely went to political cronies.

"Private businesses create useful jobs because the consumer votes every day to reward the businesses that are able to distribute what the public desires in a timely and inexpensive manner."

Biden said the economy has started a turnaround, noting the U.S. added 495,000 private-sector jobs in the first five months of this year, compared to more than 3 million jobs lost in the first five months of last year. He said the country was "hemorrhaging jobs" when he and Obama took office in early 2009.

Meanwhile, Biden praised the local congressman, Democrat John Yarmuth, for having "the gumption" to support the stimulus program "at a very difficult time." However, Biden misidentified the Louisville Democrat, who was on stage with him, referring to Yarmuth a few times as "Jim."

Near the end of his speech, Biden was interrupted when a GE executive collapsed on stage.

The crowd gasped in shock when Jim Campbell, president and CEO of GE Appliances & Lighting, apparently fainted. Biden asked for a doctor on stage, but Campbell soon walked away under his own power.

A GE spokeswoman later said Campbell was taken to a local hospital as a precaution for evaluation. She said the incident appeared to have been heat-related. 

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