WHITE HOUSE— President Barack Obama on Wednesday underscored his commitment to spurring job creation and boosting manufacturing, through creation of public-private investment hubs throughout the United States.
Obama traveled to the southern state of North Carolina, hard-hit by job losses in the Great Recession of a few years ago, to announce creation of a new manufacturing hub.
The first was announced last year in Youngstown, Ohio. At North Carolina State University, the federal government and 18 private companies are combining funding and resources to create a second hub focused on power electronics.
As the overall U.S. economic recovery continues, boosting manufacturing has been a key priority for the president.
Obama pointed to what he calls a trend of companies starting to bring jobs back to the United States, and he provided a preview of the likely main theme of his fifth State of the Union address on January 28.
"We have got cheap energy costs, we have got the best workers in the world, we have got the best university systems in the world, we have got the largest market in the world," said the president. "So the pieces are there to restore some of the ground the middle class has lost in recent decades; start raising wages for American families. But it requires us to take action. This has to be a year of action."
That action, Obama said, includes a need for Congress to approve federal support for the unemployed. The White House has sharply criticized Senate Republicans for blocking this legislation.
The president also previewed what is likely to be his approach going forward with Congress, where Republicans succeeded in blocking many of his domestic agenda goals.
"The challenge of making sure everybody who works hard can get ahead in today's economy is so important that we can't wait for Congress to solve it," he said. "Where I can act, on my own, without Congress, I am going to do so."
In the face of Republican obstruction through his first term and into his second, Obama has used executive orders to push through initiatives he says are crucial for job growth and the middle class.
Obama said restoring the American dream of opportunity for everyone who is willing to work for it "is something that should unite the country [not] divide the country."
The president urged Congress to pass legislation required to achieve a goal he set of creating 45 innovation manufacturing zones across the country.
Obama continues to face criticism from House and Senate Republicans who point to high unemployment, and object to his health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act.
"The month of December was the worst job performance literally in three years," Senate Republican John Thune said Monday on Capitol Hill. The labor participation rate is at the lowest level since Jimmy Carter's administration 36 years ago and the bad news for the American people continues to pile up."
In his remarks in North Carolina, Obama pointed to figures showing 568,000 manufacturing jobs added during his first term, including 80,000 over the past five months, with more than eight million jobs created since the depths of the recession.