Vice president comes to High Point

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Apr. 20—HIGH POINT — If you had asked Thomas Built Buses worker Chris Pratt a week ago if he ever thought he'd meet Vice President Kamala Harris, he would have candidly replied, "No way."

On Monday afternoon, it was set to happen.

The welder from Archdale was among a select group who were scheduled to greet Harris as she toured a local Thomas Built Buses plant during the vice president's visit to Guilford County.

"This is a historic moment," Pratt told The High Point Enterprise. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing."

Harris, the nation's first Black and first woman vice president, made the visit as part of the campaign by President Joe Biden's administration to pass a massive infrastructure program through Congress. The American Jobs Plan would craft a $1.9 trillion stimulus package focused on infrastructure needs, such as repairing aging or deteriorating highways and bridges.

Speaking at the plant, Harris said the legislation would include $20 billion to build more electric-powered school buses like those manufactured by Thomas Built Buses.

Pratt, who serves as president of United Auto Workers Local 5287 representing hourly workers at Thomas Built Buses, said another purpose of the vice president's visit was to spotlight an employer where union workers and management can build a successful company.

Pratt said that Thomas Built Buses workers were informed Friday about the vice president's visit. They kept the information low-key over the weekend until the White House announced the vice president's itinerary.

Among the people scheduled to join Harris on the plant tour was High Point Mayor Jay Wagner, according to the White House.

Harris spoke earlier Monday at the Jamestown campus of Guilford Technical Community College.

Neither stop by Harris in Guilford County was open to the general public, and the events were covered by a media pool that didn't include The High Point Enterprise.

The White House announced the vice president's intention to visit Guilford County last Wednesday, though specifics on where Harris would go weren't released until Monday morning. Harris and her team flew in and out of Piedmont Triad International Airport.

During her local remarks, Harris detailed what she and the administration see as the benefits of the American Jobs Plan legislation. The plan would create 2 million apprenticeship slots for workers to learn good-paying trade skills while expanding broadband internet access to underserved communities.

Not everyone was enthralled by the vice president's local trip. Republicans chided Harris for touting what they say is a liberal wish list of spending while not focusing on the immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexican border.

Former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who grew up locally in Jamestown and is running for the Senate in next year's elections, said Harris should concentrate on the border crisis.

"Vice President Harris, it's time to start doing the job that President Biden tasked you with nearly a month ago," McCrory said in a statement. "Drug cartels and illegal gangs are a threat to North Carolina families, and this administration's failure to address the problem at the border is only making matters worse."

The local visit was the first time that Harris came to the area since she and Biden took the oath of office. This week marks the third month for the new Democratic administration.

The last president or vice president to visit High Point while in office was Republican President George W. Bush in 2002 when he toured the local hospital.

After visiting High Point, Harris made a previously unannounced stop at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in downtown Greensboro. The center was developed around the lunch counter where four North Carolina A&T State University students launched the sit-in desegregation movement on Feb. 1, 1960.

pjohnson@hpenews.com — 336-888-3528 — @HPEpaul

pjohnson@hpenews.com — 336-888-3528 — @HPEpaul

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