President Barack Obama’s visit to the Ahwatukee Foothills’ Desert Vista High School marks the third time he’s stopped in the East Valley vicinity while in office.
The president first came to Mesa in February 2009, just one month after his inauguration. He delivered a speech at Dobson High School, announcing $200 billion in additional money for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to help families in high-interest loans. That speech came as the country – and Arizona in particular – was in the midst of the housing market crash.
In January 2012, Obama delivered a speech at in Chandler at Intel’s microchip plant to tout the need to increase U.S. manufacturing. It was just one day after his State of the Union address and just as Intel began construction on a new $5 billion facility.
“The East Valley is really the perfect backdrop for anyone wanting to showcase what is good about our country. Strong family values, an economy that is emerging from the Great Recession with dynamic job growth, and a quality of life that continues to remain unsurpassed. It is nice to see that the president embraces all that is positive about the region and continues to promote the East Valley for all that is good about America,” Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny said in an email to the Tribune Tuesday morning.
Obama also stopped Tuesday in Chandler at Erickson Construction, an Arizona-based firm located near Chandler Boulevard and 56th Street, just across Interstate 10 from the Ahwatukee Foothills area.
Phoenix also hosted Obama, when he delivered a speech to veterans in August 2009.
Another visit to the East Valley brings continued attention to the area, said Roc Arnett, president and CEO of the East Valley Partnership.
“It brings national notoriety to the Phoenix East Valley and that’s what we’re all about, trying to get people to understand all the great assets that are here in the Phoenix East Valley,” Arnett said. “It’s good that he recognizes companies like Intel and the high school and other places.”
Obama on Tuesday addressed housing again. But this time, instead of holding up what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can do for American homeowners – such as he did in his 2009 speech – he called for an effort to replace them.
Obama told the hundreds in attendance at Desert Vista that the system that led to the government bailout the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. needs to stop. It’s part of several steps that are needed to “keep housing affordable for all these young people,” he said, referring to the high school seniors in the audience.
The focus on housing may be one reason Obama selected this Arizona site to deliver his speech, said Mike Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
“We’ve had a significant recovery in the Phoenix area that has been forefront of people’s minds because we went down so hard and so early and we’ve also come back so early and, initially, to a greater extent,” Orr told the Tribune. “I think someone said Phoenix is the poster child for the housing crash and the housing recovery. As a location, it makes some sense.”
Obama said as much during his address Tuesday.
“In places like Arizona, it was devastating when that bubble burst,” he said, referring to Arizona as “ground zero” of the housing market crash.
“Phoenix has also led one of the biggest comebacks in the country. You should be proud of what you’ve done here,” he said.
Arnett has another idea as to Obama’s selection of the Ahwatukee Foothills area.
“It appears that he’s coming to help Kyrsten Sinema bolster her base. And from that standpoint, it’s probably helping Kyrsten Sinema a lot,” Arnett said, referring to the freshman Democrat from Congressional District 9, an area that includes parts of Phoenix (including Ahwatukee), Tempe, Chandler and Mesa. “We invite him, next time he comes, to land at the Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport and go to Boeing and see all the stuff that’s happening out around the airport.”
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