the (new) american worker

Obama Uses Energy Workers At Their Desks to Frame (Literally) Jobs Remarks
March 6, 2010, 1:39 am
Filed under: jobs | Tags: , , ,

As a former student of electoral politics – and current student of energy economy – President Obama’s press conference at OPower, an Arlington, VA-based energy efficiency consultancy, last Friday caught my eye for two reasons.

President Obama pitched pieces of his jobs bill Friday standing in the office of OPower, a VA-based energy efficiency consultancy.

First, Obama delivered his remarks right in the middle of the OPower office, with OPower workers literally just standing at their desks to hear the President speak. Stepping up to a simple podium set in the middle of the room, Obama launched into his brief speech with a casual aside:

“Just looking around the room, this looks like a fun place to work,” he said, naturally drawing polite laughter. (When the POTUS gives a speech 10 feet from your desk, you laugh at his jokes.)

Visually, it was highly evocative of Obama’s message to put Americans to work at innovative companies like OPower. I liked it. No doubt, some politcal hand got a nice pat on the back for setting up that shot.

Second, the President delivered this speech on the heels of a weekly data report that found the economy lost 36,000 jobs for the final week of February – less than anticipated, but still bleak. Sticking to his message of the past couple months, the President eagerly emphasized the growth potential of companies like OPower. He claimed that the consultancy “doubled its workforce last year,” and “hopes to add another 100 workers this year.” He then touted his plan to offer a $5,000 tax credit for each additional hire companies make – a point he emphasized by bidding up, auctioneer style, OPower’s planned number of new hires, from “110…115…we’ll see,” to OPower CEO Daniel Yates standing off camera.

100 new workers at one firm in Virginia in one year – if OPower’s claims are valid, that would be a pretty rapid infusion to the workforce. I think this makes an important point. While large-scale projects like nuclear can provide good, high-paying jobs, the numbers I have seen for these massive projects cap at about a few thousand new workers. Energy beliefs aside, I think the combination of start-up psychology, (hopefully) significant growth potential and overall agility makes companies like OPower all the more powerful for development of the American workforce and human capital.

–Mia Lamar