Rising from the ashes, a once abandoned auto plant may signal an amazing economic opportunity for our state.

Six years ago, the last Mitsubishi worker clocked out at the sprawling plant in Normal. Thousands of jobs were gone and a massive, empty building haunted the I-55 roadside. Then, there was nothing short of an economic miracle.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos learned of R.J. Scaringe, a dynamic and young engineer in Michigan who had a dream to build electric vehicles. Mayor Koos picked up the phone and invited Scaringe to look at this empty, state-of-the-art auto production facility in Normal for his company. Scaringe liked what he saw.

This once-shuttered auto manufacturing plant has been given new life by Scaringe’s innovative American company, called Rivian — a builder of all-electric pickup trucks, SUVs and delivery vans.

Last month, as I toured the plant while Rivian prepares to bring three brand new models to market by the end of this year, the factory was full of activity. The company is launching its production line in partnership with Amazon. The undisputed leader in internet sales has made a major investment in Rivian and prototypes of the 100,000 all-electric Amazon delivery vans are inching down the assembly line.

This is the new Normal, a place where hard-working Illinoisans produce 21st century products, and companies come together with local leaders to move us toward a cleaner, stronger economy. Together, they have created thousands of new jobs and are stepping up to ensure the United States continues to lead in the global economy.

President Joe Biden is also stepping up with his American Jobs Plan, which includes a $174 billion investment in electric vehicles and charging stations. The investments that President Biden has proposed would support the growth of a new American electric vehicle industry that will be led by innovators based here in Illinois. This includes companies like Rivian and Lion Electric, whose plant in Joliet will build clean, electric school buses for our children and employ thousands of skilled Americans.

The American Jobs Plan will also accelerate the installation of charging stations throughout the country and provide more funding for research and development institutions like Illinois State University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Lab. The president’s vision and federal funding will help train the next generation of the American workforce to develop better batteries and recycling processes and modernize our auto industry. America must lead this charge, pun intended.

If Congress steps up to fund the president’s plan, it could transform towns like Normal all across the country into powerhouses of American innovation and manufacturing. Opponents say we should take it slow, or wait and see what happens before deciding to invest for the future. I couldn’t disagree more.

The Republican counter-proposal to the American Jobs Plan will mean millions of fewer jobs and take us out of the running to lead the world in manufacturing. I don’t want to be part of an effort that surrenders the United States’ economic potential to others. Stepping away from President Biden’s plan for manufacturing, jobs, and families will cede global leadership to foreign competitors and ensure that the jobs of the future will be created overseas instead of here in the United States. Based on their proposal, it seems my Republican colleagues prefer a future where the United States finishes in second place. That is unacceptable.

It will take a unified approach where we all work together to outcompete China, which has invested tens of billions of dollars per year into its electric vehicle industry for more than a decade and complemented that investment with supportive policies. It turns out that thinking ahead and having a plan can pay off—China now dominates the global battery supply chain and has the largest electric vehicle market in the world. It’s time for us to do better.

I will continue to support robust, sustained funding for new, clean energy technologies like electric vehicles. And I will continue supporting innovation not just in technology, but also in how we educate the next generation of the American workforce, and how we source, produce, and distribute new American products.

I hope my colleagues in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans alike, will join me in thinking in a big way about the future of America’s economy and its infrastructure. I’ve seen the kind of future this thinking can create in Normal, Illinois, and it’s a bright one.

Read the article here: Sen. Durbin: Rivian leading way for the state