ASHEVILLE, North Carolina — A day after vowing to ignite America's economic engine, President Barack Obama hit the factory floor Wednesday, to promise a rebound in job-creating manufacturing industry.
Obama visited a Linamar Corporation plant in Asheville, North Carolina, which makes heavy engine components for cars and trucks and opened in 2011 on the site of a former Volvo plant.
His trip was part of a three-day campaign-style swing built on the message of his State of the Union address Tuesday, that government help and investment can revive post-crisis U.S. industry and create middle class jobs.
Obama noted that Linamar, a Canadian firm attracted by local authorities and that plans to retrain laid-off workers with new skills, had now hired 160 employees and would hit 200 by the end of the year.
"The good news is what's happening here is happening all around the country. Because just as it's becoming more and more expensive to do business in places like China, America is getting more competitive and more productive," he said. "After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have now added about 500,000 jobs over the past three years."
Obama touted his plans to train workers, end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs to low wage companies overseas, and to encourage investment in US jobs, and said he needs help from Republican foes in Congress.
"There is nothing we can't do and no possibilities that we can't reach when we are working together. Let's just focus on the same kind of common sense and cooperation that we are seeing at this plant and we are seeing all across the country,” he said.
Obama used his annual address to the nation Tuesday to reassure the middle class that the feelings of economic security and deprivation still lingering from the worst financial meltdown in decades can heal.
But Republicans gave a cool response to Obama's proposals, accusing the president of being obsessed with raising taxes, and rejecting his plan to raise the minimum wage to $9 from $7.25.
"Listen, I've been dealing with the minimum wage issue for the last 28 years that I've been in elective office," said House Republican Speaker John Boehner, who has a background in small business.
"When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it. At a time when the American people are still asking the question, ‘where are the jobs?’ why would we want to make it harder for small employers to hire people?"
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013