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Obama offers optimistic assessment of economy in North Carolina

June 13, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
(Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images )

Reporting from Washington — President Obama pushed a glass-half-full message on the economy as he visited a North Carolina manufacturing plant Monday, preferring a long-term view of the nation's economic recovery amid new uncertainty.

"We shouldn't pretend that a lot of folks out there are not still struggling. But I am absolutely optimistic that we've got everything it takes for us to succeed in the 21st century," Obama said at Cree Inc., which produces energy-efficient lighting. "We are a people who dream big, even when times are tough -- especially when times are tough. We're a people who reach forward, who look out to the horizon and remember that together there's nothing we can't do."

It was the latest event on jobs from the president in a state he's likely to contest fiercely in the 2012 campaign. North Carolina was one of the long-running red states that Obama carried in 2008.

Obama sought some measure of credit for progress at Cree, citing growth in its business since he visited as a candidate three years ago.

"You're helping to lead a clean-energy revolution. You're helping lead the comeback of American manufacturing. This is a company where the future will be won," he said.

Though much of his message was familiar, the White House's strategy is focused on generating positive coverage in local media.

Earlier, Obama met with his so-called Jobs and Competitiveness Council, where General Electric Chief Executive Jeff Immelt and 25 other business, labor and academic leaders presented him with five "fast-action steps" to create 1 million jobs.

"No single idea, however well-conceived, will solve our nation's employment challenge," Immelt and another council member, American Express Chief Executive Ken Chenault, wrote in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal. "So we're taking a comprehensive approach with eight teams focused on specific areas such as skills and training, regulatory reform and innovation."

Obama made a point of mentioning that the council was organized "many months ago, not in response to one jobs report." The national unemployment rate ticked up to 9.1% in May; it stood at 9.7% in North Carolina, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

North Carolina is the first stop on a two-day trip that is heavy on politics. In Miami on Monday night, Obama will raise money for his reelection campaign. On Tuesday he visits Puerto Rico, the first such visit by a sitting president in half a century and the latest sign of outreach to the Latino community.

Jim Puzzanghera contributed to this report.

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