Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

November 20, 2010

Obama, Biden to visit ITP II

Stops in Kokomo closed to public

By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer

Kokomo — President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will tour the Indiana Transmission Plant II and greet plant workers during Tuesday’s visit to Kokomo, the White House announced Friday.

But members of the public hoping to see the president and vice president may be limited to seeing their motorcade going by.

While both officials are expected to make several local stops Tuesday in Kokomo, attendance at the stops will be limited to press only.

Obama and Biden announced Thursday they would visit the City of Firsts to view some of the positive effects of the federal stimulus and the auto bailouts firsthand.

White House officials Friday said that with the help of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, and the administration’s auto restructuring plan, “Kokomo is on the rebound today, and unemployment has dropped by nearly 8 percentage points since mid-2009.

This will be Biden’s first visit to Kokomo, and Obama’s second. The president visited Kokomo in April 2008 when he was locked in a tight primary election battle with then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Apart from the ITPII visit, where Obama is expected to take a tour, talk with workers and give brief remarks, no further details of the trip were released Friday.

Air Force One will arrive and depart from Grissom Air Reserve Base Tuesday, and both the arrival and departure will be closed to the public.

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said he was first contacted by Biden’s office about three weeks ago, just after CNN/Money series of stories dubbed Kokomo as “The Town the Stimulus Saved.”

Goodnight said the vice president’s office followed up on the conversation about a week after the initial chat.

The office called again just before Goodnight left on a recent trade trip to China, to let him know the vice president would be coming. It was only this week, Goodnight said, that he learned the president would also be coming.

“They’ve not told us any reason for the visit whatsoever,” Goodnight said. “They asked me where I’d want them to go for lunch, and I gave them three choices.”

It’s possible Obama and Biden could at least tour the Kokomo downtown area while they’re here.

In addition to mentioning an $89 million stimulus grant made to Delphi Corp. and Chrysler Group LLC’s decision to invest $343 million in the ITPII, the White House also said “administration investments have helped to support a downtown revitalization that led to the opening of a dozen new businesses in the area.”

Goodnight said the city received about $600,000 in stimulus funds which it used a major renovation of downtown sidewalks. The city has also received more than $1 million in stimulus funds to rehabilitate and resell foreclosed homes; another $1 million which it used to start a fixed-route bus system; and a clean energy grant used to install new energy efficient lights in Foster Park.

• Scott Smith is a Kokomo Tribune staff writer. He may be reached at 765-454-8569 or via e-mail at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com