I know communities that have faced hard times. I grew up in one. I’ve lived in one, and until last week I was the mayor of one. Helping my community get back on its feet has been my passion for as long as I can remember. But I also know that Youngstown is just one city that needed help. Now as the new director of the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, I have the chance to give back to not just my own community, but many throughout the nation that continue to face challenges as the auto industry and American manufacturing emerges from the deepest recession in decades.
When President Obama took office two and a half years ago, the future of the American automotive industry was uncertain. Two of the Big 3 American automakers were on the verge of bankruptcy. Plants across the country were being closed or idled.
Just as our President recognized that the automotive companies themselves needed assistance, he also recognized that our automotive communities needed support in addressing the challenges they were facing. That’s why in March 2009, President Obama named his first director of the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers.
Over the past two years, we have seen the automotive industry make great strides toward recovery. Auto manufacturers are making investments in facilities and adding jobs again. Since June 2009, the automotive industry has added more than 110,000 jobs. GM, Chrysler, and Ford are all operating at a profit. Still, for communities that have lost a plant, there is still a lot of hard work ahead. That’s where we come in.
My experience as mayor provided me with a unique perspective. I know firsthand the struggles that communities face when trying to work toward recovery, but I’ve also seen what can happen when the right people — state, local, and federal governments along with community leaders, businesses, and philanthropic organizations — come to the table with fresh ideas and the desire to get things done. I’m excited to do just that for the auto communities across the country that need a fresh start.
Jay Williams is the executive director of the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers.