President plans visit to Freightliner truck plant

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 7, 2012

MOUNT HOLLY (AP) — President Barack Obama is planning another trip to North Carolina, this time visiting a long-distance truck plant Wednesday that has been hiring new workers to help fill an uptick in orders.
“What’s going on at the plant is great for our economy,” Mount Holly City Manager Danny Jackson said today.
Obama will talk about the economy at a Freightliner plant in Mount Holly, a community of 14,000 people about 15 miles south of Charlotte. It’s one of three Freightliner plants in the Charlotte area, including a factory in Cleveland.
His trip comes less than a week after first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden visited North Carolina, a key battleground state for the presidential election.
Obama won North Carolina by 14,000 votes in 2008, the slimmest margin of all the states he carried. He was the first Democrat since Jimmy Carter to carry the state.
The Democratic National Convention is being held in Charlotte in early September.
The president’s trip is a chance for him to tout a rebounding economy that is creating more jobs — especially in the manufacturing sector.
Growing demand has prompted Freightliner, a division of Germany’s Daimler Trucks North America, to hire more workers to build trucks. Last year, the company said it would bring back 447 manufacturing jobs and 27 administrative positions in Mount Holly.
Freightliner announced in February it would hire 1,100 more workers at its Rowan County factory in Cleveland, and an additional 100 at a nearby Gastonia parts plant.
At one time, the Freightliner plant in Cleveland employed nearly 4,000 workers, said Corey Hill, president of United Auto Workers Local 3520. Now it has about 1,600 — with more callbacks on the way, he said.
That’s good news for the local economy, which has been hit hard by the recession. Unemployment in Gaston and Rowan counties, where the plants are located, has been higher than the state average of 9.9 percent in December — the last month when figures were available.
Some Freightliner workers make $24 an hour with benefits.
Jackson said Mount Holly has fared better than some communities. And he said the new hires at the plant will give a boost to the local economy. The workers will have more money to spend in restaurants and even make repairs to the homes.