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October 07, 2022

President Biden lays out ‘middle class’ economic vision at Hagerstown Volvo factory

Credit: Herald-Mail, Dwight Weingarten

From 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to a Volvo factory on Pennsylvania Avenue in Hagerstown, President Joe Biden made the short trip to Western Maryland on Friday to tout his economic vision with the mid-term elections a little more than a month away.

After touring the facility where key components for Volvo and Mack electric trucks are made, Biden took to the stage to lay out how he wants to build the country going forward.

“This is an economy built on building from the middle out and the bottom up,” Biden said, speaking in a conversational tone to dozens of auto workers and a few elected officials assembled in the 1.5 million-square-foot factory, originally built in 1961.

“My Republican colleagues have a very different view,” he said.

He characterized his view of the economy as “Scranton, Pa.,” referencing his hometown and comparing it to Hagerstown, while casting the view of trickle-down economics as “Park Avenue,” referencing the affluent New York City street.

“The middle class built America, and unions built the middle class,” said Biden, garnering applause from the Volvo workers on hand. Of the factory’s 1,700 employees, 1,300 are union members with the United Auto Workers locals 171 and 1247.

President’s visit helps Volvo employees ‘feel strong’ about shift to electric

Before his speech, Sara Carper, who has worked at the plant three years as a project manager, met with the president where the company makes its modular power boxes.

The Hagerstown factory is the only site in North America where the company manufactures modular power boxes for electric trucks.

“We are the heart of the trucks,” Breanna Jordan, a manufacturing engineer manager at Volvo, said in an interview before the president’s speech. “We are going through a major transformation in our facility, moving from diesel engines to electric trucks.”

Steven Fagert, an area manager over engine assembly at Volvo, said the company is on a mission to understand and improve its carbon footprint. During the past 10 years, the Volvo Group has invested nearly $320 million in the site.

First Line Manager Rodney Jones said the president’s visit helps the company “feel strong” about its shift to electric from both an environmental and economic perspective.

The president’s visit is “a great thing for Hagerstown,” said Vamshi Singireddy. A native of Hyderabad, India, he’s worked at Volvo for 10 years as a systems analyst.

“My heart is racing,” Singireddy said in an interview inside the factory two hours before the president’s arrival. “I’ll remember it forever.”

‘The President of the United States is in your hometown

Biden closed his speech by acknowledging the challenges of the past few years. “We just have to keep going,” he said, expressing his hope that after the election the partisan bitterness would stop.

In the crowd were the city’s Democratic mayor, Emily Keller, and U.S. Rep. David Trone, D-6th, who said during a post-speech interview that his office received contact from the president’s office late last week stating that they’d like to come to Hagerstown.

The national polling site shows Trone with a two-point percentage lead over state Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington, according to an Oct. 7 afternoon update. The seat is critical for both political parties as they seek to set the agenda in the next session of Congress.   

Keller, who rode from the Hagerstown Regional Airport to the Volvo factory with the president, called the experience “very surreal.”

“Regardless of your political affiliation and opinion, the President of the United States is in your hometown,” Keller said. “It’s a pretty great thing to be able to say.”