Fifty years ago in Louisville, Kentucky, General Electric's famous "Appliance Park" was a hub of production, employing tens of thousands of workers and making 60,000 appliances a week. The park was even home to its own fire department and claimed its own zip code.
In the years since, though, production has fallen -- and fallen far. Two years ago, employment dropped below 2,000. As one journalist from The Atlantic put it, Appliance Park "appeared less like a monument to American manufacturing, than a memorial to it."
That, at least, was how things looked in 2011. Then, in 2012, something happened.
Last year, for the first time in 55 years, Appliance Park began running a new assembly line. Refrigerators and washing machines started leaving the loading docks again, and cars started showing up in the parking lot.
Of course, Louisville isn't the only place this is happening. This is just one chapter in larger success story chronicling the recent resurgence of American manufacturing.
At DOT, we've been proud to play a part in that story. Our Buy America program ensures that America's transportation infrastructure is built by American workers using American products.
But neither our Department, nor the President, is simply applauding the progress we've made. Instead, we're thinking about the next chapter of this manufacturing renewal: about how those fridges and washing machines get from the loading dock to the store, and about how those workers get from the parking lot back home.
After all, as manufacturing changes, the transportation system that connects those manufacturers to markets needs to change as well.
Our challenge is to increase our entire transportation system's capacity to handle the economic growth we envision, to make sure that more people get from homes to factories, and more products get from factories to homes and global markets.
On this score, DOT is taking an important first step. We've begun to design something that the United States has never had before: a national freight plan -- a plan that turns America's roadways, railways, runways, and waterways into one seamless system that delivers goods faster and safer.
This, of course, is just the beginning of our work. And none of this will happen if it's our work alone.
Because our goal is to understand where and when it's more efficient to invest in rail rather than a road -- or a road rather than a waterway. And local leaders know the facts on the ground better than most.
That's why, at DOT, we continue to need the support of cities and states to help develop our economic arteries. Only by working together --at all levels, with all stakeholders, and across party lines-- can we ensure that what's happening today at Appliance Park --and across America-- isn't an endnote or a footnote, but a first page.