It isn't often that a major corporation relocates a factory and its hundreds of jobs from China to the United States. But tacking against the prevailing trade winds, that's exactly what General Electric Co. decided to do last year, moving production of a new generation of water heaters to the company's Appliance Park in Louisville. And that's what brought Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to Kentucky three weeks ago.
Biden went there to tout the critical role the federal government played in GE's decision, in the form of $25 million in tax credits provided through the “advanced energy manufacturing” program enacted in the 2009 economic stimulus law. It's a central element of the Obama administration's strategy to promote innovation in U.S. manufacturing and clean-energy development, and to elevate American exports at a time when China and Germany — not the United States — are leading the way out of the global recession.
Just like President Obama's Michigan photo-op last week highlighting federal aid to U.S. companies that are developing advanced battery technology and electric cars, GE's relocation to Kentucky offers a perfect advertisement for the administration's ideas. Its new water heaters incorporate “smart grid” technology that allows them to communicate with utilities and cut electricity use during peak periods. The Kentucky factory also will operate a production line of more-efficient washers and dryers and will add more than 800 jobs to help restore the once-thriving complex. “I don't see it written anywhere,” Biden said at a tour of the refurbished facility, “that America has to settle for No. 2.”