Dennis Gray is quite familiar with Master Lock, having worked for the company for eight years in the 1990s before leaving for a different job.
Now unemployed, Gray stood outside the Master Lock plant on a warmer-than-usual, sunny Wednesday, anxiously awaiting the arrival of President Barack Obama.
Gray, a boilermaker by trade, is hoping Master Lock will hire him back. But he has his name on several waiting lists, desperate for just about any kind of job.
He expressed optimism that Obama's plans will help create more jobs, especially in areas like this one.
"The central city needs it," he said.
That statement summed up the general mood Wednesday at the corner of 33rd and Clarke streets, outside the Master Lock employee parking lot. Some hope and a feeling just a little short of desperation for the president to do something – anything – to help people find work.
The crowd swelled to hundreds of people as Obama's visit drew closer, with a line down the block about three-deep. People checked their phones and announced updates on the president's location.
"Air Force One has landed!" a woman yelled.
A large group outside the plant entrance held a sign urging Obama to pass legislation creating more jobs. Pro-jobs chants like "Bail out the people, not the banks" were shouted as a drum beat loudly, and a few people made their support of a recall of Gov. Scott Walker clear.
A heavy police presence was on hand and blocked off the streets surrounding the facility.
Many of the people lived in the neighborhood and came to catch a glimpse of the president's motorcade. Many screamed excitedly when the motorcade finally made its way down the street about 12:30 p.m.
Damian McClendon, who lives just two blocks away, said he tried to get his kids excused from school to see the "historic event."
That didn't happen, but McClendon and his wife were still on hand to watch the president arrive. Like Gray, McClendon was hopeful the president would be able to expand on the "insourcing" for which Master Lock has been praised.
Master Lock says it has brought about 100 jobs back to the United States since mid-2010. Its efforts gained attention from Obama, who invited chief executive John Heppner to the White House and mentioned the company in his State of the Union speech.
Obama took it a step further Wednesday when he visited the plant in person and continued to emphasize the importance of bringing jobs to America.
In his speech, he called for tax cuts for American manufacturers and higher taxes for companies who send jobs overseas, according to an Associated Press report.
"Ask what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed," he said.
Obama arrived at Mitchell International Airport in the late morning. He was greeted by Gov. Scott Walker, who presented him with a Brewers jersey, and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Check out Fox 6 for video of the president getting off the plane.