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Two local men attend presidential address

Two local leaders attended the State of the Union address in Washington D.C. on Tuesday night as guests of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner.

Boehner, R-West Chester, invited Jason Barlow, president of United Auto Workers Local 402, and state Rep. Ross McGregor to attend President Barack Obama’s speech. Boehner’s 8th District now includes Clark County.

“The speaker is acknowledging that Clark County is now part of the district and wants to reach out,” said McGregor, R-Springfield. “By inviting myself and Jason Barlow he’s reaching out to diverse segments of the community.”

Barlow described himself as a life-long Democrat who leans right on fiscal and First and Second Amendment policies.

“I won’t say no because of a political establishment,” Barlow said. “I’ve always had to work across party lines. No side should be the party of no or else we’ll never get anything done.”

When he first met Boehner, Barlow said he had to explain some of the processes of labor unions and what they do for companies — something Boehner told him he’s interested in because his district has a significant labor presence.

The two have since worked together to showcase Springfield and Navistar’s viability. Barlow and Boehner have discussed Navistar’s past engine strategies, trade deals with other areas outside the U.S. and more.

“It comes down to jobs,” Barlow said. “We’re not going to agree on everything but one thing we can agree on is retaining and growing the workforce in Springfield and Clark County.”

Barlow also commended the president on his speech, specifically noting the emphasis on manufacturing and educating children.

“Just to hear him discuss the continuing effort to work on manufacturing and some new strategies for growing manufacturing in America and bringing jobs back,” Barlow said. “Also educating children, those were two big ones for me.”

McGregor, a Republican, said that while he doesn’t agree with everything the president said, he was happy to be at the address.

“Some things I agreed with more than others,” he said. “Whether or not I agree with his positions on everything, I don’t doubt his sincerity in promoting what he believes in.”

McGregor, who also works in manufacturing at Pentaflex Inc., expressed some frustration at the lack of details in some of the presidents plans — particularly in paying for new initiatives such as enhanced early childhood education.

But both McGregor and Barlow said they expressed awe at those in attendance.

“You’re in the presence of the most powerful individuals in the world and that does have an effect,” McGregor said.

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