Greater Springfield received visits from two very influential individuals last week.
As you know, U.S. Speaker of the House, John Boehner, spoke at a luncheon we hosted on Friday at Wittenberg University. We had a great turnout – more than 300 individuals – and I think he really had a chance to get to know our community better, what we’re accomplishing and where we are going.
That afternoon, the Speaker was joined by another individual who could have a lot of influence on what happens to our community.
Dan Ustian, president, chairman and CEO of Navistar, made his first visit to the Springfield plant since he was named president in 2004. Both he and Speaker Boehner toured the Navistar plant and spoke with company and union representatives about the new truck lines, the new flexible production plan and the successful collaboration between company and union representatives.
This is significant. For years the Springfield plant was not looked upon very favorably by corporate officials in Chicago. This visit, which included a joint presentation by company and union officials, was the plant’s opportunity to reverse the former negative stereotype and show officials that this plant can not only handle more volume but can do it at a high level and in an efficient way.
Springfield plant manager Jim Rumpf said he was excited to have both the CEO and the Speaker of the House visit the plant on the same day. He was satisfied that the tour went well.
As a result, both Speaker Boehner and Ustian received a better understanding of what is working in Springfield. More importantly they saw the potential for growing these very significant jobs in our community.
Speaker Boehner went on to tour Pentaflex, a company that is a perfect example of how both large and smaller manufacturers are experiencing an upswing in Springfield. While at the facilities, he held a roundtable discussion on the needs of manufacturing in a global, ultra-competitive environment.
Before he left town, the Speaker attended a small reception at the Heritage Center. It was a great opportunity to show off the recent additions to our downtown, such as our new hospitals, National Road Commons and the Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts & Conference Center.
It was also an opportunity for us to learn a little more about him, about his longtime friendship with our former congressman, Dave Hobson, what he hopes to accomplish in Washington and how we can benefit by having him as our new representative in Congress next year.
I left the event with the impression that Speaker Boehner will be accessible to us. And that he does care about this very important community that will anchor the northern part of his district.
Have a great Chamber day!