Toledoan affirms success of bailout

Kenyetta Jones, right, introduces Martha Figueroa, Rob Hach, Lucas Beenken, Ed Meagher, and Ryan Case as fellow 'American Voices.'
Kenyetta Jones, right, introduces Martha Figueroa, Rob Hach, Lucas Beenken, Ed Meagher, and Ryan Case as fellow 'American Voices.'

CHARLOTTE -- A Toledo face of the taxpayers' rescue of the auto industry took the stage Thursday on the final night of the Democratic National Convention.

Kenyetta Jones, a 27-year General Motors Powertrain employee, told her story through her own words and via video and then introduced other "American Voices" representing some aspect of President Obama's policies. The others did not speak.

"I didn't sit around feeling sorry for myself," she told a national audience. "Instead, I started training people with basic skills, so when the jobs came back they would be ready. Thanks to President Obama, those jobs did come back.

"He knows that America needs our jobs, because what happens to the auto industry happens to America," Ms. Jones said. "President Obama saved our community. He saved working America. He's my hero."

Ms. Jones, a wife and mother of two, was laid off for 13 months beginning in 2009. She's now back on the job as sales of post-bailout American-made cars have surged. Chrysler recently accepted applications for 1,100 jobs as it prepares to expand its Toledo Jeep plant, and General Motors has announced a $200 million retooling of its Lordstown plant to produce the next generation of the Chevy Cruze.

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Not far to her left sat the delegation from Ohio, which has been courted in Charlotte as the state where this election could be decided. The rescue of the auto industry is considered critical to the Obama campaign's strategy to carry the Buckeye State.

Ms. Jones introduced Mr. Obama during his Labor Day appearance in Toledo and her speech won her a speaking slot in Charlotte. The campaign interviewed her. A video was quickly produced in Toledo, and she flew to Charlotte on Wednesday.

"If the auto industry had gone down, everyone would have felt it," she said in the video. "It wouldn't have just been me. It would have been corner stores, the mom and pop shops. Toledo would have definitely been a ghost town."

Ms. Jones' husband, Daryl, traveled with her to Charlotte, but he remained behind the scenes as his wife took center stage.

"I really want people to understand," she told The Blade several hours before her speech. "As simply as I can put it, if you're laid off, it could have been worse. It could be a plant closing. If you don't have a plant, you don't have people, so you don't have a union. If you don't have a union, there's no UAW representing you. There are no wages, no benefits, and no jobs. The process is kind of building blocks on top of one another."