President Obama took his State of the Union message on the road Wednesday, demanding that Congress act swiftly on the programs he outlined in his address to the nation and kicking off three days of travel to try to rally the public behind his economic agenda. Asheville, N.C., was the first stop, with a campaign-style event at an auto-parts plant that he sees as a success story with a message for Congress and the rest of the country.
"I'm doing what I can just through administrative action," he told the cheering workers. "But I need Congress to help. I need Congress to do their part. I need Congress to take up these initiatives, because we've come too far and we've worked too hard to turn back now."
His demands on Congress echoed what he had said in his address the night before--funding for 15 centers for high-tech manufacturing, tax reform that lowers the corporate rate for companies that stay in the United States, more spending on infrastructure to make it more attractive for manufacturers to expand, and more training programs for displaced workers with a goal of giving better skills to 2 million Americans.
Lamenting that there are "too many Americans who are out there every day ... pounding the pavement" in search of jobs, he called for a bipartisan approach on Capitol Hill. "This is a job for everybody," he said. "It's not a Democratic thing or a Republican thing."
To make his point, the president came to what he considers a success story in the battle to revive America's manufacturing base. In the darkest days of the recession in December 2009, Volvo Construction Equipment Co. closed its Asheville plant, throwing 228 workers out of their jobs. Two years later, though, with generous government incentives, the plant was sold to Linamar Corp., a Canadian manufacturer that promised to employ up to 400 workers.
"There's a good story to tell here," said Obama, calling it "a manufacturing comeback" emblematic of what is going on across the country. "Linamar has hired 160 workers. It'll be 200 by the end of the year, and it's just going to keep on going after that."
He warned that nationally "we're not going to bring back every job that's been lost to outsourcing and automation over the last decade." But he said he wants to work with Congress because "there are things we can do right now to accelerate the resurgence of American manufacturing."
On Thursday, the president takes his post-State of the Union campaign to Georgia, where he is expected to champion his proposal for free preschool for children of low- and moderate-income families. Then he goes to his hometown of Chicago on Friday.