Appliance Park CEO collapses as Vice President Biden speaks


by Associated Press/WHAS11 News

Posted on June 28, 2010 at 12:33 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 8 at 7:54 AM

Cheering middle class jobs and clean energy, Vice-President Joe Biden said in Louisville, Monday that General Electric and the Obama administration have a consistent vision.  Biden defended stimulus spending and dismissed critics of the Recovery Act.

"Those who talk about this is big government, this is big government giving a little bit of help to jump start America to lead the world in the 21st century," Biden said.

The Vice-President spoke to several hundred workers in a sweltering Building 3 at GE's Appliance park in Louisville.  While Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) and Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY) followed Biden's lead and removed their suit coats, GE Appliance Park President & CEO Jim Campbell did not remove his coat.

It is believed that heat played a role in Campbell's collapase and fall off the stage as Biden began to conclude his twenty minute remarks.  The crowd gasped, the Vice President rushed to the end of the riser, and a GE worker on stage stared in disbelief.

GE Spokeswoman Kim Freeman said Campbell was thouroughly checked out at both the facility and a hospital.  He was later released from the hospital.

Prior to the fainting incident, Biden, Gov. Steve Beshear, and Congressman John Yarmuth all made a case for federal stimulus spending.

"Less than two years ago, this country was basically suffering a near collapse, not just this country but the world economy," Yarmuth said.

For his support of the stimulus, Biden thanked Yarmuth by name, just not the right name.

"At a tough time, you stood up, Jim," Biden said, addressing Yarmuth, "you would not be having these extra jobs, we would not be standing here were it not for Jim casting that vote for the recovery act."

About $25 million of GE's $600 million in new investment at Appliance Park is being funded by manufacturing stimulus money.  And Biden also credits the government with creating a demand for greener appliances.

"GE has stepped up to the ball in producing them. It's called, energy star rebates, Biden said.

"He said to me that I got a future out here. and that's something I want to hear because I'm a homeboy from here in this town,"said one worker who began to cry recalling the encounter with Biden.

Yet, conservative activists would have none of it, dozens of whom protested Biden outside a fundraiser in Jeffersonville.

"I am here in protest of higher taxes, out of control spending and the ramming of legislature down our throats," saidLisa Morris of the Clark County Tea Party Patriots, "we feel we're being taxed without representation."

"We're unhappy with the direction of our country," Added Republican Congresional candidate Todd Lally. "They come in here and preach about jobs coming to our community when, in fact, we still have 10 percent unemployment in Jefferson County and here its even more."

Biden's appearance was to highlight how federal stimulus dollars have both sparked new investment at Appliance Park and creating a demand for greener appliances.

And he used the words of Muhammad Ali to inspire.

"'The man who has no imagination has no wings, Biden said, quoting boxing legend Muhammad Ali, "I'd like to paraphrase the son of Louisville, the nation that does not innovate, has no wings."

Yarmuth also made a boxing analogy.

"Just a few years ago, people thought the facilities here at Appliance Park were on the ropes. And some expected the economic downturn would be the knockout punch."

The economy couldn't knock down Appliance Park's CEO, but the heat did.

Earlier -

(WHAS11)  - Vice President Joe Biden is in Kentucky and he spoke at GE's Appliance Park about the federal stimulus program.

While Biden was speaking, Jim Campbell, president and CEO of GE's appliances and lighting division, collapsed. Campbell was sitting on risers to the right of the stage and as Biden was speaking, the crowd gasped as Campbell fell to the ground.

Biden then called for doctors, which were in the building. Campbell immediately regained consciousness and, as a precaution, was taken to a local hospital for evaluation and will be released soon.  His vital signs are strong and he is communicating with his staff. The incident appears to have been heat-related. 

In his speech, Vice President Biden took a swipe at government critics, crediting the massive federal stimulus program with helping jump start the economy through tax credits aimed at spurring private investment and job creation.  

Without dropping any names, Biden appeared to target Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate Rand Paul and other candidates critical of government intervention in the economy.

Biden spoke to factory workers at a sprawling GE facility where the company is making a $600 million investment to expand production with three new energy-efficient product lines. That investment is backed by $24.8 million in tax credits, which the company received as part of the Economy Recovery Act to retrofit and retool the facility.

"So those who talk about this is big government, this is big government giving a little bit of help to jump start America to lead the world in the 21st century," Biden said.

Biden said tax credits being doled out as part of the stimulus program will produce nearly $5.5 billion in private-sector investments that will spur job creation.  

GE plans to add some 830 jobs at its sprawling Appliance Park campus in Louisville through 2013, thanks to the new products. Production of new hybrid electric water heaters is to begin in 2011, followed by a new line of washing machines in 2012 and matching driers the following year.

The work force stands at about 4,100 at Appliance Park, down from a peak of nearly 23,000 in the 1970s.  

Biden criticized political candidates who he said think the government should "sit on the sidelines" as the nation's economy tries to rebound from its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

"I love those guys who say that government should stay out when we're in deep crisis, like some of the people you're hearing from in this state and other places," Biden said.

Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton took his own swipe at the vast economic stimulus package, which has a long-term cost of $862 billion.

"Government is not very good at creating jobs," he said in a statement Monday. "President Obama's stimulus package cost $413,000 per job created and those jobs largely went to political cronies.

"Private businesses create useful jobs because the consumer votes every day to reward the businesses that are able to distribute what the public desires in a timely and inexpensive manner."

Biden said the economy has started a turnaround, noting the U.S. added 495,000 private-sector jobs in the first five months of this year. He said the country was "hemorrhaging jobs" when he and Obama took office in early 2009.

Biden praised the local congressman, Democrat John Yarmuth, for supporting the stimulus program. But Biden misidentified the Louisville Democrat, who was on stage with him, referring to Yarmuth as "Jim."