The United States is “on the cusp” of regaining its status as the world’s leading manufacturing country, Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday during one of three stops in Connecticut.
The vice president met with state officials and manufacturing executives at Goodwin College in East Hartford for a roundtable talk on workforce development. The event was taped by NBC Connecticut and streamed over the Internet.
During his remarks, Biden said the nation’s manufacturing industry has created almost 700,000 jobs over the past six years.
“The last 15 years, your children all heard the phrase ‘outsourcing.’ Your grandchildren are going to hear the phrase ‘insourcing.’ They’re not hearing about outsourcing and there’s a reason for that — manufacturing is coming back to the United States of America,” he said.
During the event, Biden heard from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and U.S. Rep. John Larson about East Hartford-based manufacturer Pratt & Whitney. The vice president joked about the praise state officials were giving Louis Chênevert, CEO of United Technologies Inc., the parent company of Pratt & Whitney.
“Louis, if we keep going I think they’re going to canonize you,” Biden said. “But it sounds like there’s good reason for it.”
Biden said manufacturing jobs have evolved. Many assembly line functions have been replaced by robotic manufacturing systems. But Biden said the types of workers who once manned assembly lines can now adapt their skills to maintain robots.
“Pratt & Whitney, one of the great companies in the world that you represent, is a different company than it was 20 years ago. I mean, it’s fundamentally different than it was 20 years ago. The skillset required is different but they’re all within the wheelhouse of the same people who used to do those jobs before,” he said.
Biden praised programs at Goodwin College and other state schools that attempt to align educational programs with the training needs of the state’s manufacturers. He said the collaboration is a model for other states.
“You all got together, you got the leading corporations of your state together, you got the leading labor unions in your state together, you got the educational institutions in your state together to say ‘Hey look, man, we’ve got a problem, but we have a hell of an opportunity,’” Biden said.
The vice president was not just in Connecticut to praise the state’s manufacturing training programs. Biden also was expected to headline two private fundraising events in Fairfield County on Wednesday afternoon for groups helping Malloy’s re-election efforts.
Biden will attend a 4 p.m. fundraiser for the Democratic Governors Association at a private residence in Greenwich. He will then appear at a private residence in Stamford where he will raise money for the Connecticut Democratic Party. Both fundraisers will be closed to the public and the press.
Devon Puglia, a spokesman for the Connecticut Democratic Party, declined to discuss the party’s fundraiser and referred all questions to the White House Office of the Vice President. According to a White House press advisory, Biden is expected to return to Washington Wednesday evening.
According to pool reports, Biden told reporters it is “important to keep really good men and women in office.”
“I’m prejudiced, he’s my friend. He’s a Democrat. I’m a Democrat,” Biden said. “I acknowledge that. But by any standard, this guy has done more. How can we be arguing about whether the minimum wage should go up? Sixty seven percent of the American people think the minimum wage should go up.”
Tom Foley, Malloy’s Republican opponent, said he did not think Biden’s visit would be effective. Foley, who in July hosted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie —chairman of the Republican Governors Association — told reporters he doesn’t believe voters will be swayed by vice presidents or other politicians who come from out-of-state to stump for candidates.
“The governor’s race is kind of a unique race,” Foley said.
He said it might make sense for the president or the vice president to come and ask voters to support a candidate to help them run the federal government, but “that’s a very different argument from somebody coming in and saying we need a Democratic governor in Connecticut.”
“I don’t think it will mean a whole lot,” Foley added.