President Barack Obama on Monday continued his visits to companies across the nation that he calls examples of how new technology and innovation will help add jobs to the U.S. economy. Mr. Obama also met with a special council composed of top corporate CEOs (chief executive officers), as well as labor and education figures, advising him on job creation efforts.
The president's visit to Cree, a company in Durham, North Carolina manufacturing LED lighting, was part of his effort to spotlight success stories amid a still-sputtering economic recovery and recent disappointing employment figures.
As he has done in similar visits across the nation in recent months, Obama toured the company's assembly plant, shaking hands with some of the factory's 1,500 employees.
Cree received a $39 million tax credit as part of the president's economic recovery stimulus, allowing the company to add 375 new factory jobs.
The White House sees Cree, which also exports products overseas and established a factory in China last year, as part of a "success story" made possible by administration stimulus funds and tax incentives.
It was a return trip for the president: he visited the company, which has 5,000 workers globally, as a presidential candidate in 2008. He told employees Monday that they are setting an example, developing energy-efficient products and helping with broader job creation.
"So you are helping to lead a clean energy revolution, you are helping to lead a comeback of American manufacturing," said President Obama. "This is a company where the future is being won."
North Carolina is among states hard hit by the U.S. economic recession: its 9.5 percent unemployment rate is several points above the recently-reported 9.1 percent national level. It's also one of several politically-important states for the president's 2012 re-election efforts.
Opposition Republicans tried to turn the visit to their political advantage. A Republican National Committee news release cited the company's investment in China as part of what it called proof that recovery funds are flowing to a major economic competitor.
The White House used the visit to organize the first meeting outside of Washington of President Obama's Jobs and Competitiveness Council, formed earlier this year to advise Mr. Obama on steering the economy toward a faster recovery and to help create jobs.
Headed by the CEO of General Electric, Jeffrey Immelt, the council includes business executives from major sectors of the U.S. economy as well as labor unions.
In remarks to the 23 council members, Obama repeated a description he has used frequently in recent weeks about the economy encountering "headwinds," but said there are reasons to be optimistic.
"It's important for us not to pretend we have fully recovered like we need to," said Obama. "There are a lot of people who are still hurting out there. But it is also important to remember that we have got enormous assets, we have got everything that is going to be required to make these structural adjustments to make sure that we are competitive. It doesn't require radical changes, it requires just some common sense approaches to problems."
The president said growing jobs and fixing the economy will not require "radical changes" but what he called "common sense ideas" to improve U.S. competitiveness, adding he hopes these will not be subject to "the usual political gamesmanship" in Washington.
As the president spoke in North Carolina, his administration unveiled the latest stage of an effort it says has identified $33 billion so far in federal government waste. The new effort came complete with a four minute video in which the president and Vice President Joe Biden appeared.
OBAMA: "We're calling it the Campaign to Cut Waste, and I know Joe is the right man to lead it, because nobody messes with Joe."
BIDEN: "There is a new standard by which the government is going to function from this point on. The American people are entitled to transparency. By that, I mean they are entitled to be able to figure out where their dollars are going and they are entitled to accountability, to make sure that we are using the dollars for what we said it was for."
In his remarks in North Carolina Monday, President Obama said again that despite the creation of more than 2 million jobs over the past 15 months, many Americans continue to struggle. But he said he is "absolutely optimistic" that the United States has everything it needs to succeed in the 21st century.