Tue., March 2, 2010 5:43pm (EST)

President Obama Visits Savannah
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 4 years ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
President Barack Obama at Savannah Technical College, March 2, 2010.  (Photo Orlando Montoya)
President Barack Obama at Savannah Technical College, March 2, 2010. (Photo Orlando Montoya)
President Obama visited Savannah today in a whirlwind tour that focused on jobs and energy-efficiency.

Mr. Obama was in town for just four hours.

He first toured Savannah Technical College, where he met with students and pushed for a new federal program that would give rebates to encourage energy-efficent home repairs.

Mr. Obama mentioned the "HomeStar" energy program in January during his State of the Union address.

Here in Savannah, the President said, homeowners could be eligible for up to $3,000 in rebates for energy-saving home repairs.

"Now let's say you decide to use this rebate to seal up and insulate your attic because you want to save electricity, but also because you're tired of a drafty house," Mr. Obama said. "Think about all the ways in which that will stimulate jobs and growth."

In the audience were contractors that he said could do some of the energy-efficient work.

"These are companies ready to take on new customers," Mr. Obama said. "They're workers eager to do new installations and renovations, factories ready to produce new building supplies. All we got to do is create the incentives to make it happen."

Mr. Obama is pushing Congress to include HomeStar, which is modeled on the Cash-for-Clunkers program, in a new jobs bill.

About 250 people were in attendance at the Savannah Technical College's auditorium.

Among them were a few top Republican officials, including Gov. Sonny Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston.

Reaction to the visit was tinged with excitement.

Following the speech at Savannah Technical College, attendees could be heard asking which among them got to shake the President's hand.

Likewise, the invited business and political leaders applauded the President's HomeStar idea.

"This is a good investment that will give a return on the investment for individuals, families and the country," said Richard Clarke of Mascoe Home Services, which manufactures a range of home products. "There is a tangible reward in energy efficiency and comfort for homeowners."

The program's $6 billion price tag didn't seem to concern U.S. Rep. John Barrow.

"This has a direct impact on people's pocketbooks and also on jobs," Barrow said. "I think there's a growing appetite for that in Congress because some of the things we do take such a long time to filter down to individuals."

The President then toured an old-line manufacturer, Chatham Steel, where sparks flew out of a giant machine.

Mr. Obama spoke to several men in hardhats manning a large piece of machinery that looked like something out of a Terminator movie.

Then Mr. Obama toured a new business on the west end of town, Meddin Studios, a new media company involved in film and digital production.

"The main reason that we wanted to highlight what they're doing is they took advantage of an SBA loan to get this thing started, " Mr. Obama said. "I'm sort of doing a customer satisfaction survey here."

In between, the President surprised diners at Mrs. Wilkes, an iconic Southern restaurant that features family-style seating.

About 50 people packed the dining room, and all stood as Mr. Obama shook hands in the low-ceilinged room.

Ed and Carol Enciso of Chicago got to shake hands with the President and she got a photo.

"This is the most exciting thing!" she said.

Mr. Obama sat with six guests and Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson, who sat to his left.

Fried chicken was piled on a plate in front of them.

As Mr. Obama chatted with a man from Charlotte, N.C., he spooned baked beans and ambrosia on his plate.

"I don't want any lectures about my cholesterol," he told the press. "Don't tell Michelle."


Contributors: White House pool reporting contributed to this report.