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From factory floor, Obama sells plan to boost American manufacturing

February 13, 2013|By Christi Parsons
  • President Obama arrives to speak at the Linamar factory in Asheville, N.C.
President Obama arrives to speak at the Linamar factory in Asheville, N.C. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty…)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- President Obama on Wednesday called on Congress to help create "global centers" of high-tech jobs across the nation as part of a larger economic plan he says will spur American manufacturing and expand the middle class.

After touring the Linamar auto parts factory here, Obama told a crowd of workers and customers that the Canadian company's decision to open the facility is part of a migration of jobs to the U.S. that the federal government should try to support.

"Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Intel is opening its most advanced plant here in the United States," Obama said in a speech on the factory floor. "So we're seeing this trend of what we call in-sourcing."

The president's trip to North Carolina was the first stop of a three-day tour to sell some of the proposals outlined in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night. The address touched on a broad range of subjects, including climate change, Medicare reform and gun control. But his post-speech tour was aimed at promoting his newly repackaged economic plan, which Obama said was the core of his effort to revitalize the middle class after years of falling wages and a rising cost of living.

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Obama's proposals were a familiar mix of tax reforms, credits and grants aimed at luring companies to the U.S., investing in technology and training, and supporting communities facing the loss of a major employer.

The president said the Linamar plant, which makes large parts for trucks and construction equipment, "had a good story to tell." The company relocated to the Asheville site after a Volvo plant closed in 2010, laying off more than 200 workers. Linamar has since hired 160 people and has plans to expand, Obama said.

The president suggested that more foreign companies would do the same if Congress acted on his plans to support a "renaissance" in American manufacturing. The government should help by investing in manufacturing institutes that foster innovation and help local communities attract such businesses, he said.

Obama is asking Congress to approve $1 billion to create 15 such centers, and will use existing money to forge ahead on three institutes without Congress' approval, he announced Tuesday.

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An overhaul of the federal tax code would also help, Obama said, by lowering the overall tax rate for corporations and offering incentives for those who bring plants to the U.S. The president wants to lower the corporate tax rate for manufacturers to 25%, and expand and make permanent tax credits for research and development.

Obama pitched many of the ideas last year, as he geared up for his reelection campaign, but they quickly stalled in the divided Congress.   

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday shot down the idea of raising the minimum wage, one of the central tenets of the president’s plan to help and expand the middle class.

Boehner argued that raising employers' costs won't cause them to hire more people, but would instead to do the opposite.

Obama brushed off that view in his remarks on Wednesday, reiterating his assertion that the minimum wage should rise.

"I believe we reward effort and determination with wages that allow working families to raise their kids and get ahead," he said to light applause. "That's part of the reason why I said last night that it's time for an increase in the minimum wage, because if you work full time, you shouldn't be in poverty.”

Staff writer Kathleen Hennessey contributed to this report.

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christi.parsons@latimes.com

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