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Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams Named Auto Recovery Czar

July 6, 2011
Williams to head Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, created by Obama.

Starting in August, Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams will be in charge of coordinating federal efforts to help rebuild U.S. communities still reeling from the loss of auto-industry jobs.

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis on Wednesday introduced Williams as the new director of recovery for auto communities and workers.

In his new post, the two-term mayor will head up the Labor Department's Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, which President Obama created in March 2009.

Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams will become the new director of recovery for auto communities and workers on Aug. 8.
Williams, the first African-American mayor and the youngest mayor in Youngstown's history, will start his new job on Aug. 8.

"As mayor, Mr. Williams is no stranger to the adverse impacts that auto communities have had to endure," Solis said during a conference call. "He is committed to transforming and shaping communities like Youngstown, and I have no doubt that he's going to do an incredible job."

Before being elected mayor in November 2005, Williams served as Youngstown's director of community development. The Youngstown native majored in finance at Youngstown State University, where he obtained a bachelor's degree.

Williams fills a vacancy left by the first auto recovery czar, Ed Montgomery, who stepped down in August.

During Wednesday's conference call, reporters asked Solis and Williams if the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities can make an impact with an annual budget of just under $2.5 million.

Solis noted that the Labor Department since 2009 has doled out more than $70 million in national emergency grants to help displaced autoworkers in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and several other states.

She also pointed to other federal efforts such as the Energy Department's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loans program, which has guaranteed more than $8.4 billion in loans to help jumpstart development and manufacturing of electric vehicles and batteries.

Williams emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships.

"Certainly federal resources play a part, but they aren't the only answer," Williams said during the conference call. " ... I can't speak highly enough about the partnership that we've established with Youngstown State University. When you talk about the private sector, what we've sought to do in Youngstown and what we will seek to do in these similarly situated communities is to create an environment where the private sector then comes in with the capital, with the investment, to create those jobs."

Earlier in the call, Solis defended Obama's decision to bail out General Motors and Chrysler, asserting that the move saved 1 million automotive jobs. She also noted that U.S. auto industry has created more than 115,000 jobs since GM and Chrysler went through bankruptcy restructuring in June 2009.

"Had the president not acted, auto communities and working families would have been harder hit," Solis said.

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