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Published: Thursday, 6/18/2009

Sen. Brown seeks loans to assist auto parts firms

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The Obama Administration has rejected additional aid for the automotive components sector, but U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown yesterday proposed a plan for helping them and some other manufacturers from careening off course.

Mr. Brown said he will introduce legislation to establish a $30 billion revolving loan fund that small and medium-size manufacturers could use to become more energy-efficient or switch to production of components for the solar, wind, and other industries involved in so called "clean energy."

The Ohio Democrat announced the proposal in a conference call with reporters.

"Ohio has the manufacturing base and skilled workers to become the Silicon Valley of clean-energy manufacturing," Mr. Brown said. "This bill will help our manufacturers retool, put our auto suppliers back to work, and place our state at the forefront of clean-energy production."

Ohio already has established itself as a center for clean-energy manufacturing, he said.

"Toledo has more solar-energy jobs than any city in the entire country," Mr. Brown said, an apparent reference to the presence in the metropolitan Toledo area of enterprises such as a solar panel plant operated by industry giant First Solar Inc.

Wendy Patton of Policy Matters Ohio said during the conference call that the program could benefit more than 3,000 Ohio manufacturers employing 250,000 people.

The think tank's estimates include 96 firms in Lucas County with between 20 and 500 workers each.

Mr. Brown said he expects to co-sponsor the measure, the Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology Act of 2009, with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.).

The measure would create loan funds that would be administered at the state level.

They would receive federal financing for two years after which they would continue to make loans with repayments from prior loans.

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