It’s rare when one of the highest ranking officials in the United States visits our area.

Vice President Mike Pence was here Wednesday to tour a littoral combat ship (USS Cooperstown) at Fincantieri Marinette Marine and address some 450 people that included FMM officials, workers and suppliers, along with community and state leaders.

We can’t stress enough the importance of the local shipyard to this area. Heavy hitters from the state and federal level would not pay as much attention to our area if it wasn’t for FMM, its outstanding leadership and its incredible workforce.

FMM has been constructing some of the vessels in the LCS fleet and now is in contention for the Navy’s future guided-missile frigate contract to be determined next year. Plain and simple, our local economy benefits when the shipyard succeeds.

Which brings us back to the Pence visit earlier this week. We don’t care if you are left wing, right wing, or planted firmly in the middle, it is a huge deal to have someone of that stature make his or her way to our upper Midwest location.

The vice president’s 40-minute speech, at times, definitely had some political overtones. He chastised Democrats in Congress for spending time on the President Donald Trump impeachment hearing instead of getting actual work done and he was critical of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats for letting the U.S. Mexico Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) collect dust when he believes it should be brought up for discussion and a vote.

Pence lauded the work done by his boss, Trump, as he pointed out numerous statistics relating to job growth and the economy. Pence, an Indiana native, said the president never has to be told to “just keep going.”

“Let me tell you, that’s something you never have to say to President Donald Trump,” Pence said. “As they say in the Hoosier State, all the reverse is stripped out of that pickup truck, it only goes forward.”

Moreover, the visit by Pence was to sing the praise of Fincantieri Marinette Marine and the work that is being done there. He referenced that the shipyard is planning another $100 million investment in 2020, on top of a $73.5 million expansion this year. The expansion next year will create 700 new jobs.

“It is great to be here with all the extraordinary men and women who have been the heart of this city since 1944,” Pence said.

He pointed out that President Trump, in his budget, has requested the largest shipbuilding expense for the Navy in 20 years.

The vice president and his impressive motorcade arrived in Marinette Wednesday morning. He noticed the students from Garfield Elementary School standing outside on the corner of Pierce Avenue and Carney Boulevard. Pence instructed his driver to stop and he had an impromptu visit with the students and teachers, talking and posing for pictures.

Following the shipyard event, Pence and his entourage ate lunch at Mickey-Lu’s Bar-B-Q in Marinette, where he talked with customers and again posed for photos.

In his speech, Pence mentioned a gift of aged cheese he received from Carol Cubalchini at Joe’s Cheese House in Marinette. He lauded the family atmosphere of workers and generations of employees at FMM, including security officer Jeff Skorik, a former Marinette police chief, who works or has worked alongside family members, including daughters Bethany and Phoebe (Anderla).

Some have taken to social media to criticize Pence and his visit because of the “R” next to his name and his association with a president they despise. Conversely, we applaud the vice president for providing a local touch to his visit.

Getting back to our opening statement, it’s very rare for a president or vice president to stop in the Twin Cities. Local historian and former EagleHerald editor and columnist Larry Ebsch said President Teddy Roosevelt’s vice president, Charles W. Fairbanks, visited here about 1905. (No, Larry didn’t cover the event!)

John F. Kennedy was here campaigning in 1960, but he wasn’t yet the president.

So yes, we believe it’s a very big deal for Pence to visit Marinette and our fabulous shipyard. In large part to Fincantieri Marinette Marine, there’s a genuine connection between Washington D.C. and Marinette.