It’s not often that a Vice President comes to your town. But, this past Friday Vice President Joe Biden came to the Longmont area to visit UQM Technologies, a local green energy technology company in nearby unincorporated Weld Country. UQM had received a $45.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and VP Biden made a stop at the company’s new Longmont facility to tout the success of the stimulus grant awarded them.
While many in Longmont and the nearby communities were excitedly talking about the event as being a “Big F’in Deal” for their towns, approximately 600 people turned out to watch the “historic” event. When asked by a press member how many local elected officials were also there, a VP Biden staffer replied “Three Mayors and a Republican Weld County Commissioner.” There actually were quite a bit more than that. Nonetheless, from a partisan standpoint, it was humorous to note that they pointed out one’s political party affiliation.
Among the elected officials accompanying Vice President Biden was nearby Colorado House District 4 Representative Betsy Markey (who VP Biden was campaigning for later that day). She referred to Northern Colorado as the “Silicon Valley of the West” which provided for an entertaining reaction from Vice President Biden (see the below video) and generated a comedic poke at her fundraiser luncheon.
Although the event was held in his district, Jared Polis was notably absent. Despite all the confusion about exactly which local area was benefiting from the publicity of the Vice President’s visit, it was held in Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District.
Senator Mark Udall, when referring to UQM Technologies, jokingly told the crowd that he “is fond of things that began with the letter U”. Colorado Governor Bill Ritter who attended and spoke also had staffers from his Economic Recovery Team handing out large packets of information to the press titled “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: The Colorado Story.” One press member who was handed a copy, commented about the size of his packet.
Officials seemed eager to point out that there were human sides to the millions of dollars being spent to further green energy technology locally. As Vice President Biden stated, “jobs are about a lot more than a paycheck” and UQM Engineer Duane Bartley told his own down on his luck story. UQM Company President and CEO Bill Rankin also told the crowd gathered that the grant they received was “earned and not a gift” and that it was an exciting time for Weld County. While how many employees would be recruited locally was not stated, Rankin told of how they were initially a small company of 70 people and that the grant received would allow them to expand into the new building they had purchased with the money and employ from 300 people to upwards of 2,700 employees.
Vice President Biden also stated that UQM “is here doing something that relates to our energy process” and that he was “proud to act as a catalyst for the company, but was not the reason they were in business.” He also promoted green energy technology on a larger scale, stating that “innovation and change is the secret weapon of the country” and would allow it to compete with other nations.
At the end of the event, there was quite a bit enthusiasm shown by those who then got to meet the Vice President. Although many of the people who had to stand on their feet for hours weren’t allowed by the Secret Service to leave until after the Vice President did, it appeared that whether they agreed with his politics or not, the shiny commemorative coins he gave out to some and the length of time he spent with those who were there to see and pose for pictures with him was appreciated.
…and the shout out he gave to “right here in Longmont” didn’t go unnoticed either.
© Brigette Rodriguez/Longmont Examiner