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Obama in Durham to unveil job growth plan

President Barack Obama and members of his hand-picked job creation team were visiting the Triangle Monday to outline a plan for economic growth.

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DURHAM, N.C. — President Barack Obama and members of his hand-picked job creation team were visiting the Triangle Monday to outline a plan for economic growth.

Jeff Immelt, the head of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and CEO of GE, said Sunday, "We thought this would be a good place to do it because it's got a lot of interesting businesses, and it's pretty much a cross-section of America in many ways."

In the morning, members of the council led "listening and action" sessions targeted to manufacturing, workforce training, energy innovation, biotechnology and entrepreneurship at three area companies and on the campuses of North Carolina State and North Carolina Central universities.

At Durham's American Tobacco Campus, the entrepreneurship group toured the American Underground office complex, home to the Council for Entrepreneurial Development and other technology and venture capital start-ups, before convening their discussion session at advertising agency McKinney.

The president landed at Raleigh-Durham International Airport just after 11 a.m. He was scheduled to speak at Cree at about 1 p.m. and leave the airport around 2 p.m. Drivers should expect delays between RDU and Durham during those times. For security reasons, the Secret Service does not publish the route his motorcade will take.

The members of the council will join the president in the afternoon at Cree Inc., 4425 Silicon Drive, for a tour of the LED-maker's manufacturing operation and a meeting with CEO Chuck Swoboda.

Obama will share the council's strategy to promote hiring and job creation across the country.

"I think the economy is getting better, but not fast enough to create the kind of jobs we need in this country," Immelt said. "I think jobs is an urgent issue.

"We're going to give him (Obama) a bunch of recommendations that are really about, in the short term, creating jobs, fixing the supply and demand," Immelt said.

While Monday's meetings are only the second for the council, Valerie Jarrett, a top adviser to the president, said their work has been progressing for months.

"There's not one silver bullet answer. It's going to be literally dozens of good ideas," Immelt said.

Obama is thought to have chosen Cree as a vanguard of economic growth and clean energy technology. The company recently landed a $1.6 million grant from the Department of Energy to continue research in energy-efficient lighting.

“We’re honored to host President Obama at Cree,” Swoboda said Friday. “We look forward to showcasing our industry-leading, energy-efficient technologies and participating in discussions on policies that can spur economic growth and promote U.S. job creation.”

It is Obama's second visit to the company. He made a campaign stop there in 2008.

In a visit in March, Vice President Joe Biden said, "I don't think I've ever seen a success story quite like this one here at Cree."

With the national unemployment rate holding steady above 9 percent, the administration could use more of that kind of job news. No president since World War II has won a second term with a jobless rate above 7.2 percent, and Obama's options for achieving faster economic growth before the November 2012 election appear limited.

He carried the Tar Heel state in 2008, but voters anxious about the slow road out of recession may be looking for a change.


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