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The Associated Press
Vice President Joe Biden talk to workers at American Seating Company Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012, in Grand Rapids, Mich. Biden told workers they are an example of how U.S. companies can prosper by keeping production at home. AP Photo/The Grand Rapids Press, Chris Clark )

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Vice President Joe Biden told workers Wednesday at American Seating Co. they're an example of how U.S. companies can prosper by keeping production at home, adding that a stronger manufacturing sector is playing a crucial role in the nation's economic recovery.

"You never outsourced, you never left, you never abandoned" the United States, Biden told about 200 American Seating employees. "I'm absolutely convinced, because of you workers on the floor, America is absolutely coming back and will lead the world in the 21st century."

The 125-year-old Grand Rapids company employs nearly 500 people in the Grand Rapids area and makes seats for buses, trains, office furniture, auditoriums and stadiums, including Fenway Park in Boston and Radio City Music Hall in New York City. It has never moved production overseas and most of its parts come from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

"We in American Seating are proud of doing our part to rebuild the American economy," said plant operations manager John Burns.

The vice president's visit comes less than a week after President Barack Obama spoke at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Obama called for colleges and universities to hold down tuition costs and talked of other ways to support to the middle class. The White House said that visit wasn't a campaign stop.

Biden echoed the middle-class theme Wednesday as he addressed the workers, who were seated on stackable plastic-and-metal chairs that American Seating pioneered in the 1970s. He called for bringing jobs back to the United States so that skilled American workers could earn a living wage. He also promised that, under the Obama administration, "your kids are going to hear as much about insourcing as you heard about outsourcing."

The White House wants to eliminate incentives to ship jobs overseas that put U.S. companies that keep jobs here at a disadvantage. In their place, the administration would offer tax breaks to companies that close overseas factories and return jobs to the United States.

"You give people a moving expense to come home, you don't give them a moving expense to go abroad," Biden said, earning applause. "That's why I'm so proud of this company. They did not budge."

The visits by the Democratic president and vice president are another sign that the election season is well under way in Michigan.

"The fact that the president and vice president were in Michigan in five days is kind of a breathtaking statement that Michigan is in play because of Mitt Romney," said Romney's state campaign chairman, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. "Now because of Mitt Romney, a Michigan guy with deep roots ... they're going to have to spend time and resources in a state that they've been able to take for granted."

The state's Republican presidential primary is on Feb. 28, and Michigan native Romney is expected to do well in the state after his big win Tuesday in Florida, especially since he has raised far more money in the state than his three remaining GOP competitors, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Since Michigan isn't a winner-take-all primary, however, the state GOP race still could prove a spirited one. Paul has campaign staff in the state and Gingrich vowed Tuesday after losing Florida to Romney that he plans "to contest everyplace."

During last week's State of the Union address, Obama said he also wants to require American companies to pay a minimum tax on their overseas profits in order to prevent other countries from attracting U.S. businesses with unusually low tax rates. He proposed reducing tax rates for manufacturers and doubling the tax deduction for high-tech manufacturers to encourage more U.S.-based jobs.

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