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President Obama commends Boeing, unveils export proposals during factory visit

He arrived onboard one legendary Boeing jet, toured a revolutionary one and committed to helping Boeing and its suppliers build and sell many more.

Boeing visit

Boeing/Jim Coley

The president is greeted by a sea of cellphone cameras as he makes his way to the podium at the Boeing 787 final assembly facility in Everett, Wash.

U.S. President Barack Obama learned about the innovative features of the 787 Dreamliner during a visit to the Boeing facility in Everett, Wash., to promote American manufacturing and to increase U.S. exports.

"I get to see your handiwork in action every single day," Obama told more than 2,000 Boeing employees and special guests. The president had flown from San Francisco to nearby Paine Field onboard Air Force One, the modified 747-200 that is maintained by Boeing Defense, Space & Security. "As wonderful as it is to fly on Air Force One, and it is wonderful, it's hard not to be amazed by the Dreamliner."

Boeing Mechanic Kathleen Hughbanks was among the Boeing Commercial Airplanes employees who welcomed the president to the 787 final assembly line. They walked Obama through the four major positions in the production process, explaining the latest techniques used to assemble the most advanced commercial jetliner.

The 787 "is lighter, it's faster and it's more fuel-efficient than any airplane in its class...and it looks cool." President Barack Obama.

"It's been a dream to work on the 787 and it was a privilege to show off the work of my amazing team," said Hughbanks, who installs components on the 787.

Boeing visit

Boeing/ Jim Anderson

The president addresses American manufacturing in front of a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner being built for United Airlines.

The 787 "is lighter, it's faster and it's more fuel-efficient than any airplane in its class...and it looks cool. The Dreamliner is the airplane of the future," said President Obama. "This company is a great example of what American manufacturing can do, doing things that no one else in the world can do."

To support more airplane production and sales, the president announced several initiatives, including new financing to put American companies on even footing with international manufacturers and new credit for small-business exporters.

Obama also urged Congress to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the nation's official export credit agency, whose mission is to help finance the export of U.S. goods to international markets.

"U.S. exports and thousands of good-paying jobs are at risk if Congress fails to authorize Ex-Im and raise the current cap on its loan portfolio." Billy Glover, Boeing Vice President of Environment and Aviation Policy

The bank, whose financing supports billions in Boeing airplane sales, is at risk of exceeding its $100 billion lending ceiling, possibly before its current reauthorization runs out at the end of May.

The president's support came as welcome news to the Boeing teams that have been pushing for reauthorization.

Boeing visit

Boeing/Jim Coley

President Obama hugs 787 mechanic Kathleen Hughbanks after she introduced him to the crowd of nearly 2,000 employees and guests.

"Ex-Im bank is vital to keeping U.S. exporters competitive with foreign rivals who have aggressive finance support from their governments," said Billy Glover, a Boeing vice president specializing in environment and aviation policy. "U.S. exports and thousands of good-paying jobs are at risk if Congress fails to authorize Ex-Im and raise the current cap on its loan portfolio."

Politics aside, the Boeing employees who were randomly chosen to attend the event said they were thrilled to have taken part in a once-in-a-lifetime event.

"I thought it was great, regardless of politics," said Missy Honeywell, who works in 787 Materials Management. "Most people will never get to experience this."

Honeywell's co-worker, Jennifer Hutchins, added, "It's totally cool for the president to come and recognize all of our hard work."

The president made a special call out to one 787 employee after learning about her reflection on the Dreamliner's first flight in 2009. Sharon Ohara, an office assistant, had said she had goosebumps and tears as she watched the airplane soar because, "we said we would do it and we did."

President Obama applauded Ohara's spirit. "That's a pretty good motto: You said you would do it and you did."

"That's what we do as Americans," he said.