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Need to Know, October 5, 2012: Main Street, Pueblo, Colo.

Ray Suarez

In the latest installment of our recurring “Main Street America” series, correspondent John Larson travels to Pueblo, Colorado to assess the mood along Main Street in a once-thriving steel town that now depends on the global economy to make ends meet.

Colorado is a key swing state in the presidential election with polls showing president Obama and Former Governor Mitt Romney neck and neck. Pueblo’s Main Street is also at the center of the renewable energy debate that the two candidates sparred over during the first debate this week. Vestas, a Danish company, set up the largest wind mill tower factory in the world in Pueblo. Romney has stated that if he wins the presidency, he plans to get rid of a wind energy tax credit put in place by Obama. That threat has frozen the wind industry in its tracks and forced the industry to layoff thousands across the country, including in Pueblo. The layoffs have compounded an unemployment rate of 11%, already the highest in Colorado.

Almost everyone we talked to felt that politicians in Washington were out of touch with the realities on their Main Street and didn’t have the ability to solve the country’s most pressing problems. And yet there is an unmistakable air resilience in Pueblo; the city has weathered the steel crash of the 1980’s and will outlast the current economic storm too.

Read the full transcript.

Additional funding for this week’s show was provided by the Schumann Media Center.

Explore more:

Alternative energy and the campaigns

Often left out of the national conversation has been talk of renewable energy — once a key part of President Obama’s platform in 2008.

Q & A: Alternative Energy

We’ve asked leading experts to help us better understand the various facets of the renewable energy debate.

Home of the Heroes song

Sarah Wood, a 17-year-old from Pueblo, Colorado performs her song about life on Main Street.

Watch more full episodes of Need to Know.


  • Thomas A. Heller

    Was disgusted to hear that a call-center employee’s wage can be ‘docked’ $2.50 an hour, while the company’s top guy earned $50 million last year. That’s more than the Wall St. bank honchos were pulling down, isn’t it? So who is this guy — and what company is it? (AT&T? You know, that company that tried to eliminate a competitor for $39 billion last year?)

  • Phill Modjeski

    A very excellent mini documentary. Wake up Congress!

  • Anonymous

    Very good work. Only one point- the dollar subsidies on industry lacked proper context – should share ratio to industry size and dollars per job–it would help communicate reality. Excellent choice in Pueblo. Great American town.

  • Sea Adams

    I cried…then to see the lady at the end smile and wink…bless her heart and every one of us!!!

  • maria

    Thank you so much for this documentary. What a compassionate view of what we are going thru on Main St America… the tears just rolled down my face. So sad, so sad. Our country, our people!

  • Emelye Waldherr

    I see straight, cisgender people having so much trouble and I despair that this lesbian trans woman won’t ever work again.

  • Cliff Jordan, MD

    Romney will definitely be a better president for America than the current incumbent. He will instill faith in the USA and create jobs by keeping our energy resources in full production. Coal, oil, gas. The current person blocks all of that and thinks that wind is our solace. The dictator has no conception of main street America. Let us all hope that Romney is our next leader.
    Cliff Jordan, MD

  • Woodchuck

    As in California, the couple that lost big because they bought a house to flip right when the market tanked does not generate my sympathy. The fellow that said he will not vote for Obama because of what??? The country on the wrong track? Really???
    The windmill company subsidy that the Republicans threaten to kill is more evidence that the country IS on the wrong path but only because of extreme partisanship.

  • Anonymous

    Funny that that is an American firm while the ones that are giving good benefits are all foreign owned companies. I think we have a failure among American businesses, the large ones any way, to be responsible to its employees and to the country.

    This started when Milt Friedman made the pronouncement that the only obligation of a corporation is to its shareholders. Somehow with in a decade the bottom line was the only thing that mattered. Owning or controlling a company meant enriching oneself. Employees became Labor and looked upon as a “cost.” Reducing costs increased the bottom line and for which the top management demanded top, ever increasing pay. (Which also reduces the bottom line but was seen as more important — besides management controlled everything.)

    Let’s welcome more foreign ownership. Maybe American firms will catch on.

  • TWells

    I do hope that viewers realize that the working poor, and those from multi-generational cycles of poverty, have been dealing with this kind of humiliation and degradation for their entire lives.

    At least most of the people in the video grew up in a place that allowed them to internalize the language, principles, and daily rhythms that lead to accomplishment (and they will have access to this implicit knowledge regardless of what lies ahead of them). We all move from novice to expert in small incremental steps –so by the time most suburban children graduate from high school, they have been adequately prepared for the expectations of a productive adulthood. It is true that in order to be successful they must work hard and put their skills to good use — but the fact remains that they begin their journey with tools they will need to do so.

    I hope that experiencing some of the pain inflicted by this recession will inspire us all to a greater level of understanding for those less fortunate. I hope that those who are able to triumph over the current economic conditions in the near future will remember the saying “there by for the grace of God, go I.”

  • Stan T Kulik

    Could it be personal that an M.D. would call our President of the United States a dictator? Trying to keep healthcare in check is a very middle class issue. Our President is much more in tune with Main Street than Mitt ever will be. But he may not be the best choice for a medical doctor?

  • annie S

    The attack on PBS during debates was much more then about Big Bird. We need this show and the News Hour. Things we would never know about if not for PBS.
    Thank you all for doing a great job.

  • Emelye Waldherr

    I don’t think Mr Romney would be better for the US. I believe he’d just be a rubber stamp for the corporate owned Congress and that the only jobs that would be generated here would be the ones impossible to export to less expensive countries.

    Mr Obama has NOT blocked all new oil, coal and gas production. Since your argument is based on a falsehood it’s obvious that it’s invalid.

  • slim

    Watching this video reminded me of the Saturday Night Live sketch “White People Problems.” One woman was crying because she couldn’t go see Magic Mike with her girlfriends.

    What other horrors were people forced to endure? I hear someone actually had to go into a pawnshop!
    oh my

  • Anonymous

    Wow deleted my comment with the facts about why Vestas laid off employees? Typical slanted story protected through exclusion of actual facts. PBS does not deserve funding from my taxes!

  • Anonymous
    I own Vestas stock and believe me shareholders are outraged that Vestas is using the expiring tax credit at this point. It is poor and perhaps corrupt management that has eroded this once thriving company.

  • slim

    I mean, y’all do know that 16 million children die from malnutrition every DAY – and that Human trafficking is a $32-billion industry worldwide— right?

  • slim

    *16 thousand

  • george

    16 thousand

  • Colorado Conservative

    The production tax credit is not a company subsidy. It is a tax credit for energy companies who utilize renewable energy sources. This tax credit will mean nothing if US economy implodes because of the out-of-control national debt. Four more years of Obama will surely lead to that end!