U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown worked his way through Summit County Democratic Party headquarters in Akron on Tuesday, greeting people and shaking their hands on his way to another small room filled with volunteers who were busily making calls and working on computers.

Asking names while shaking more hands, Brown, along with his wife, Connie, thanked everyone there for all their hard work.

“The cool thing about living here in Ohio is, first we get to live here, and second, we get to decide who the next president of the United States is,” Brown said as the crowd cheered and applauded. “You’ve watched this campaign unfold. You’ve seen what’s at stake.”

Brown is traveling throughout the state in a five-car caravan of Chevrolet Cruzes and Chrysler Jeeps, Ohio-made vehicles, on his Road to Ohio Jobs Tour. He will make 25 stops, covering 2,100 miles, to visit labor union halls and rallies to talk about jobs throughout the state.

The tour started Friday in Cincinnati and will end on Thursday in Toledo. Brown, who faces Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel in his re-election bid, visited Akron, Canton and Warren on Tuesday.

“It’s not just the big assembly plant in Lordstown or the biggest assembly plant in Toledo,” he said of Ohio auto manufacturing. “It’s the plastic company in Tallmadge, it’s the company in Cleveland that makes the steel, the company in Warren that makes the seats, the company in Defiance that makes the engine.

“It’s the company in Toledo that makes the transmission, and in Springboro, Ohio, that makes the sound system. And there’s a little company in Brunswick that makes the components for the air bag, and they are assembled in Youngstown, but they bring us prosperity and a chance for the middle class for so many people.”

Brown said that since the auto rescue started to take effect, Ohio’s unemployment rate has dropped from 10.6 percent to 7 percent.

“From 2000 to 2010, we lost manufacturing jobs every single year. We lost 5 million manufacturing jobs, 60,000 plants closed, a third of manufacturing workers lost jobs in that 10 years. And almost every month since then we’ve gained manufacturing jobs — 500,000 manufacturing jobs across the country,” Brown said.

He said there is still work to do, because there are still people who want to work and don’t have jobs, but said people should look at the progress and at the direction things are headed.

“Fundamentally, the comparison in this [Senate] race and in the presidential race is that they [Republicans] want to go back to more tax cuts for the rich hoping it trickles down and creates jobs, and what we [Democrats] want to do is focus on the middle class and grow the economy from the middle,” he said.

“That’s auto industry, enforcing trade rules, working with the University of Akron and community colleges to give kids an opportunity to go to school and not have this terrible, onerous debt.”

Brown said it also means working with small businesses to create jobs, such as Steere Enterprises Inc. in Tallmadge, which makes specialty plastic components, and Roechling, an auto parts maker from Germany that built a facility in an Akron industrial park.

The impact of Superstorm Sandy was on the minds of many volunteers who commented that even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, praised President Barack Obama on how well efforts are being handled through Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) teams.

“Who was it who said he would absolutely eliminate FEMA, because it was a waste of time and immoral?” one of the volunteers shouted out.

“[Mitt] Romney said a lot in that primary that he wants to forget,” Brown said.

When supporters offered praise to Brown, saying the Senate race should never be as close a few percentage points, he said “money talks” but also reminded supporters that what they are doing on the ground level matters.

He urged them to keep talking to people at their churches and schools or making sure that a relative or friend has a ride to the polls.

“You can really make a difference. People will listen to you. Don’t sell yourself short,” Brown told the Democratic volunteers. “That’s why these phone calls and door-to-door efforts and all you’re doing is going to defeat the $30 million [Republicans] are spending against me.

“It’s your grass-roots efforts that will matter.”

Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or mmiller@thebeaconjournal.com.