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Remarks on Signing Into Law Conveyance of the Michigan Army Missile Plant

April 24, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. On too rare occasions, a President has an opportunity to perform a duty which is pleasant and productive for everyone concerned, and that is the case with House Bill 6464, which has been promoted and sponsored by Congressman Nedzi and by Senator Levin and by other Members of the House and Senate.

This is an extremely important piece of legislation. In this time of transition in our automobile industry when we are changing the habits of American buyers, it's extremely important not only to have confidence in and support for the tremendously strong and ingenious domestic automobile manufacturers but also to work closely with the members of the UAW and others who are associated directly with the production of automobiles in our Nation.

This is a bill which will transfer, in a very expeditious way, the Army Missile Plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, from the Army, which will have no further use for it in just a few months, to the organization in Michigan, the Michigan Job Development Authority, responsible for employment and for jobs that are productive and helpful.

This transfer will then result in the ability of the authority to sell the property to Volkswagen, who will expedite the modification of this facility into a modern automobile production plant. We hope to see the first automobiles roll off their assembly line in—August of '82?

MR. McLERNON. Yes, sir, '82.

THE PRESIDENT. August of '82. And we also expect to see at least 4,000 new employees go to work in this plant.

In return for this transfer, the Job Authority will construct for and deliver to the Federal Government two office buildings, and if there is any net profit in the exchange, that would come to the American Government.

So, everyone benefits. The Federal Government will benefit, and our Nation will benefit, and of course, we hope that Volkswagen and those who are employed by and benefited in this particular area of Sterling Heights will also benefit greatly.

This is one of the examples when you can almost literally have a change of swords into plowshares, where a missile production plant, no longer needed, is designed to produce automobiles.

I would like to say, in closing, that this transition period is important, to maintain employment, to strengthen our domestic production with American manufacturers, to welcome into our country foreign manufacturers like Volkswagen, and also to increase export capability of our country, to foreign nations, of automotive machinery including, of course, automobiles themselves.

I would like to thank again Mayor Dobry for coming with his entire council body and also the city manager and others, and to thank Senator Levin and Congressmen Nedzi, Blanchard, Dingell, Cart, Bonior, and others, for 'having played such a major role in the passage of this legislation.

It would be a mistake for me to close without acknowledging a very sad occasion, and that is Congressman Nedzi's announcement that he will not be a candidate for reelection. My hope is that he will change his mind. If he doesn't decide to do so, he will have completed a wonderful and beneficial service to the 14th District of Michigan since 1961.

And I'm grateful to all those who are assembled here. And all of you have my best wishes for a rapid conclusion of a wonderful opportunity for Sterling Heights, for Michigan, for our Nation, for Volkswagen, and for all others concerned.
Thank you very much.

SENATOR LEVIN. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

As you so well put it, this is one of those bills that really benefits everybody. It benefits the taxpayers by saving the Army at least $5 million a year. It benefits the workers, of course, in Michigan and over 30 other States. Just everybody, literally, benefits by this bill.

It's great to be here with Senator Riegle, other Members of the House, of course with Jim McLernon from Volkswagen, the Sterling Heights mayor and members of the council and the city attorney and city manager. I think they took up half the plane getting here. [Laughter] And we want to thank you for your role in making this legislation possible and in helping us to pull a rabbit out of a hat. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. I might say that there was a lot of competition, as you can well imagine, for a major industrial installation of this kind, and because of the wonderful work of the Sterling Heights community and the congressional delegation, Volkswagen did decide to accept this offer. There were many competing offers, and I'm very grateful it turned out this way.

I might say that we did not intercede among the States competing. I would personally have liked to see Georgia considered a little more. [Laughter] But you won on your own merits. And I think another reason that this area was chosen is because Michigan has such a tremendous reservoir of trained, dedicated workers in the automotive industry and a history behind that that brings credit to you and to our country.

REPRESENTATIVE NEDZI. Mr. President, thank you very much for your generous comments about me personally.

But I would be remiss if I didn't underscore what Senator Levin just mentioned about the cooperation that we received from you and your staff, the Pentagon, the Department of the Army—all working in concert, cooperating. And there were countless calls, countless memoranda, meetings of all sorts. The bill, on the surface, seems relatively simple—everybody wins—and yet we had a very difficult time persuading people of that fact. And thanks to you.

THE PRESIDENT. There were a few other State delegations that did not particularly want to see this bill passed. [Laughter]

SENATOR LEVIN. And I think, as it turns out, that even they are satisfied that they will benefit.

THE PRESIDENT. Oh, I think so; the whole country will.

SENATOR LEVIN. Particularly Ohio, for instance, to pick one, is a major beneficiary of this. [Laughter] And I'm not running from Ohio. [Laughter]

MR. McLERNON. I left Cincinnati to attend the meeting today. I was giving a speech in Cincinnati when I found out you were going to sign the bill and came here. So, I have no arguments.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think they were the last two in close competition, were they not?

MR. McLERNON. That's right.

THE PRESIDENT. And I think after the Ohio delegation discovered that the basic decision had been made, they were also supportive of the legislation. As a matter of fact, in the Senate it passed with a voice vote with no opposition.

Well, congratulations to you all. It's nice to see our entire Nation benefit.

Note: The President spoke at 3:16 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. James McLernon is president of Volkswagen of America, and Anthony Dobry is mayor of Sterling Heights, Mich.

As enacted, H.R. 6464 is Public Law 96-238, approved April 24.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks on Signing Into Law Conveyance of the Michigan Army Missile Plant Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249735

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