Preps Tuesday for Obama's visit to Master Lock

MILWAUKEE  -- President Barack Obama will visit Master Lock in Milwaukee on Wednesday, February 15th. A White House official announced the location of the president's visit Friday. The official says Obama plans to discuss the importance of American manufacturing and companies investing in American manpower.

Obama highlighted Master Lock in his State of the Union address last month for moving jobs back to the U.S. from China. The padlock and security products manufacturer has returned about 100 union jobs to its Milwaukee factory since mid-2010.

The company says the decision to bring the jobs back to Milwaukee was partially motivated by increasingly higher labor and logistics costs in Asia and ongoing labor challenges in the coastal areas of China.

There was a lot of buzz Tuesday at Master Lock as preparations were made for President Obama's visit late Wednesday morning. 650 or so workers are expected to be on hand.

As equipment was being trucked in to Master Lock Tuesday, Richard Meronek stopped by to apply for a job. He heard about Master Lock "insourcing" jobs, and says he thinks it's a great thing. "I thought it would be a good start for me to drop off a resume," Meronek said.

Master Lock CEO John Heppner has been in the national spotlight ever since Obama mentioned the company, and says he never expected the attention the Milwaukee company has seen. "It's been great to have that type of notoriety. We just want to deliver for our employees because they're the ones that worked so hard to make this plant more competitive, and that's something we'll continue through 2012, and again into 2013," Heppner said.

Heppner says he shares his employees' excitement regarding Obama's visit Wednesday. "I'm really excited. We're all excited. This is great for our employees and for our community, and for the brand. For Master Lock, this has been an incredible opportunity for all of us," Heppner said.

Heppner says big things are planned for the company in the coming years. What exactly that will be is still under lock and key. Right now, all the focus is on preparing for the president's visit. "People are talking to each other about the president coming. 'Is he going to stop by and see me? Am I going to be able to get close to him? And wow, we've done good!' That's what's on their minds. They've done good," Heppner said.

Three shifts of workers are ticketed to attend Obama's visit. That's 412 workers, and 250 additional workers from the corporate office in Oak Creek. About 100 to 150 state and local officials will attend by invitation of the White House.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker plans to greet President Barack Obama in Milwaukee on Wednesday and accompany him on a visit to Master Lock.

Walker's spokesman Chris Schrimpf confirmed Tuesday that Walker will meet the president at the tarmac and join him on the company visit.