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Cree lights way to Obama's jobs vision

Posted June 13, 2011
Updated June 20, 2011

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— The backdrop to President Barack Obama's visit to the Triangle Monday to outline his plan to expand the U.S. economy is a company that has continued to grow despite the global recession and lingering sluggish business environment.

Cree Inc. makes light-emitting diodes and semiconductors used for energy-efficient lighting, cellphone communications and industrial power needs.

The company has added about 1,000 jobs at its Durham headquarters in the last three years to meet the growing demand for its LEDs, which are more energy efficient and last longer than other lighting sources. It also recently landed a $1.6 million grant from the Department of Energy to continue research in energy-efficient lighting.

Obama toured the Cree plant with company Chief Executive Chuck Swoboda and two members of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, General Electric Chairman Jeffrey Immelt and Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railways Chairman Matthew Rose.

With signs proclaiming "It's Time for Better Lighting," the president greeted smock-wearing workers assembling LEDs, telling a few of them, "We're proud of you."

He then met with White House advisers and members of the jobs council, which held a series of meetings in the Triangle Monday to devise strategies to boost the economy.

North Carolina's unemployment rate remains higher than the national average, at 9.7 percent in April, and the number of people working in the state is about 20,000 fewer than two years ago.

A couple hundred Cree employees and dignitaries were on hand for Obama's speech, including U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, Durham Mayor Bill Bell and North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson.

Cree has been somewhat a golden child for the Obama administration. He visited the company in 2008 while campaigning, and Vice President Joe Biden toured the Durham factory in March 2010.

Ty Mitchell, vice president and general manager of Cree's LED Lighting Division, compared the company's transformation in the three years between Obama's visits. It's annual revenue has doubled, to nearly $1 billion, and LED lighting sales now account for 70 percent of its business, up from 10 percent in 2008.

Cree uses LEDs in its own facilities, Mitchell said, cutting its electricity consumption by 54 percent. Similar savings are available to others who switch to LEDs, he said.

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  • dmccall Jun 14, 2011

    Cree and education/training have NOTHING to do with the lack of job growth. The president is sifting through the weeds on this one, and we are getting ready to take another big hit.

  • palidin48 Jun 14, 2011

    If you listen to the president, or only read the account of his visit to Cree, you would think everything his just hunky-dory. What you won't hear without digging around a little, is that over half of Cree's workforce is in China, that Cree has received over 30 million in grants and tax breaks, and that Cree is another international company with no particular fealty North Carolina.

    I'm not against Cree,but why so many jobs in China when North Carolina's jobless rate is near 10%

  • Keepin_it_real_in_NC Jun 13, 2011

    "Cree lights way to Obama's jobs vision" by sending more jobs to China.

  • Keepin_it_real_in_NC Jun 13, 2011

    "President Barack Obama....no longer Obama, Mr.Obama, Barack, etc...show some respect for the President of the US."

    How about President Barack Hussein Obama?

  • stanjo13 Jun 13, 2011

    President Barack Obama....no longer Obama, Mr.Obama, Barack, etc...show some respect for the President of the US.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Jun 13, 2011

    Cute headline. More style over substance. Just like Obama.

  • americancitizen27 Jun 13, 2011

    Awesome. Mr. Obama can seek work there when he is not reelected next year. I’m sure they’ll hire him. It’s smart to network for professional gain.

  • whatusay Jun 13, 2011

    Obama does everything possible to discourage business growth and jobs, then he says we need jobs. I'm surprised the media doesn't expose his true motive, to bankrupt America. Everthing he does is a smoke screen. His economic advisors have bailed on him because he won't listen to reason.

  • TheAdmiral Jun 13, 2011

    Perhaps the backdrop for Obama, since it was his entire administration that was the reason for this poor recovery, should have been the local unemployment office.

    After all, he does think that energy prices aren't high enough.

  • whatusay Jun 13, 2011

    Unemployment in NC is over 10%. Seems everywhere Obama goes things get worse.

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