Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at a American Jobs Act Press Conference

Dinwiddie Street, Pittsburgh
Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thank you -- it's a pleasure to be here with Mayor Ravenstahl and business leaders like Bill Gatti to discuss how President Obama's American Jobs Act will help put people back to work and rebuild America's economy.

We all know what a hard time this has been for our economy -- and for families.

But I wanted to come to Pittsburgh because this is a city with a proud history -- built by people who know a thing or two about hard work, about building the things America needs to win the future. 

Some here today might remember the Homestead Works -- which at one time was the largest steel mill in the world. 

At its height, Homestead produced nearly a third of all the steel used in the country -- for railroads and trains, for battleships and tanks that our military used from the Spanish-American War to the Korean War. 

It was Pittsburgh men and women that produced the beams and girders that built Empire State Building, the Sears Tower in Chicago and the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

Most important of all, Homestead employed 15,000 people -- giving them the dignity and security of a good paycheck and the ability to send their children to college.

Twenty-five years ago Homestead shuttered its doors forever -- yet today, Pittsburgh is not just a part of America's past. 

Because of leaders like Mayor Ravenstahl, it's very much a part of our future -- transformed into a center of research and green technology, of health and education, and of high-tech innovation.

Of course, even "the most livable city in America" hasn't been immune to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

That is why in his speech before Congress, President Obama unveiled the "American Jobs Act" -- which would cut the payroll tax cut in half for 98 percent of businesses, prevent 280,000 layoffs of teachers and first responders, and provide a $4,000 tax credit to employers for hiring long-term unemployed workers.

The American people know that the economic crisis and the deep recession weren't created overnight and won't be solved overnight. But the American Jobs Act is a vital step that Congress can take to create more jobs and put more money in people's pockets right now.

One of the most innovative proposals in the American Jobs Act is a new "Project Rebuild" -- which, if enacted by Congress, will put people to work rehabilitating homes and businesses like those we're standing in front of -- revitalizing communities, leveraging private capital and forging public-private collaboration.

Project Rebuild will create nearly 200,000 jobs, and at the same time stabilize home prices in neighborhoods hard hit by foreclosures. 

It will build on the success of existing neighborhood stabilization efforts that in the three years since the housing crisis began are on track to support nearly 90,000 jobs and address more than 95,000 vacant and abandoned properties.

These efforts have not only helped families move in to once-foreclosed homes in hard-hit places. Just as importantly, they've created jobs in hard-hit industries.

Not long ago, the lot behind me was empty -- overgrown with weeds, surrounded by blight, decay and foreclosure signs. 

If you don't believe me, go look at Google Maps.

Because of neighborhood stabilization efforts, we can see for ourselves how a small investment in less than two dozen homes has been game-changing for the entire Hill Neighborhood -- attracting a grocery store, a revitalized theater and other private investment.

Project Rebuild would build on successes like these with a few important innovations based on the lessons we've learned from neighborhoods like Hill.

Across the country, we've seen how it's not just abandoned homes that can drag down an entire neighborhood -- but vacant commercial properties as well.

That's why Project Rebuild would actually allow commercial redevelopment essential to neighborhood revitalization to be funded directly -- encouraging more private sector participation and forging stronger partnerships with non-profit organizations.

Project Rebuild is fundamentally an investment not just in hard hit places but also in families -- neighbors in communities around the country who have watched their home values fall on average by $5,000-to-$10,000 simply because they live on a block with a foreclosure sign.

Its inclusion in the American Jobs Act reflects President Obama's belief that rebuilding neighborhoods is essential to rebuilding our economy.

And so, Project Rebuild and the American Jobs Act will put people back to work all across the country. It will help builders keep construction workers on the job, give real estate agents the opportunity to show and sell homes once again, and provide the spark entrepreneurs need to start small businesses that create jobs.

Because whether it's Project Rebuild, repairing and modernizing 35,000 schools, or ensuring that no veteran who has fought for their country ever has to fight for a job when they come home ever again, the ideas in the American Jobs Act aren't Democratic ideas or Republican ideas.

They're American ideas -- ideas that will help our economy in a moment of national crisis and won't add a dime to our deficit. 

As President Obama said to Congress last week, the next election is 14 months away -- and the American people and Pittsburgh families don't have the luxury of waiting 14 months for Congress to take action. The time for playing politics is over -- and the time for taking action is here.

That's what it's going to take -- and that's why I'm so proud to be with all of you today. Thank you.


Content Archived: February 23, 2017