May 20, 2014 at 6:00 am

Obama to meet with Ford exec, other business leaders

Washington
President Barack Obama will meet with business leaders, including from Ford Motor Co., at the White House on Tuesday to tout firms that are making new investments and adding jobs in the United States.

The White House said Obama, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, and National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients will host a roundtable with 10 companies that are investing billions of dollars in the United States. Most of the executives attending are CEOs or regional chiefs of the firms.

The White House said a second summit in early 2015 is planned with companies from around the world investing in the United States as part of the Commerce Department’s “SelectUSA” effort aimed at convincing more foreign companies to invest in the United States and add jobs.

Ford Americas Joe Hinrichs will participate in the Roosevelt Room event. The “SelectUSA” effort has directly assisted in winning more than $18 billion in job-creating business investments in 17 states, including Michigan, and territories. Since October it has assisted nearly 500 businesses, encouraging them to invest in the United States and helping them to navigate governmental regulations, the White House said.

The White House noted that Dearborn-based Ford is launching 23 new vehicles. After making 14,000 hires over the past two years, Ford will add thousands more jobs this year.

“Our U.S. investment is driving job growth, including the addition of 5,000 new jobs in 2014 alone,” Ford spokeswoman Christin Baker said.

The White House also noted that Ford invested $200 million in its Cleveland plant to manufacture its 2.0-liter EcoBoost engines. Previously, a Ford plant in Europe supported U.S. demand for the engines. Ford made the move to assemble the engines in Ohio to help meet rising consumer demand in the United States.

“More and more companies are choosing to bring jobs to the United States,” Zients said. “These investments strengthen our economy.”

Other companies taking part are Swedish telecom firm Ericsson, with its North American headquarters in Plano, Texas; computer chip manufacturer Global Foundries; and South Korean-based Hankook Tire, a supplier for both Ford and Hyundai. The White House said Hankook is planning to invest $800 million in a new plant in Clarksville, Tenn., that is set to open by 2016 and support 1,800 jobs. Others include Pennsylvania-based construction toy firm K’Nex; German airline Lufthansa Group; Danish research firm Novozymes; apparel firm Richelieu; Belgian materials firm Umicore; and Zurich North America, the subsidiary of the Swiss insurance group.

The United States has 12.1 million manufacturing jobs, up 12,000 jobs in April and up nearly 100,000 jobs over the last year. But after the last decade when thousands of factories around the country closed, the industry remains one of the hardest hit. The White House touted that the manufacturing sector has added 600,000 jobs over the last four years.

Manufacturing has shed about one-third of total jobs since 2000, and it has fallen from 17.2 million. When Obama took office, U.S. factories employed 12.6 million people.

Still, the Labor Department said 790,000 factory workers remained unemployed in April, or more than 1 in 12 of all unemployed people in the country. Thousands more factory workers have long given up looking for work in the manufacturing sector.

In December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its forecast of employment trends over the next decade that U.S. factories will see employment fall by 0.5 percent annually, or another 550,000 jobs, after the sector saw jobs fall by 2.4 percent annually over the prior decade.

The Obama administration predicts manufacturing will account for just 7.1 percent of U.S. employment in 2022 — down from 10.7 percent in 2002. By contrast, manufacturing accounted for nearly 30 percent of all U.S. jobs in 1979.

From the late 1960s through the late 1990s, factory jobs held steady at around 17 million to 18 million.