Obama Says U.S. Can Spark Innovation to Replace Lost Jobs

President Barack Obama announced plans for a high-tech innovation hub in North Carolina, fulfilling part of a year-old promise as he looks for ways to create jobs this year without help from Congress.

“The pieces are all there to start bringing back more of the jobs we’ve lost over the past decade,” Obama said today at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The school is leading a consortium of universities, laboratories and 18 companies, including agriculture and construction equipment manufacturer Deere & Co. and vehicle component manufacturer Delphi Automotive Plc, that is being set up to foster innovations in manufacturing.

Obama, as he has in recent remarks, referred to 2014 as a “year of action” on the economy, foreshadowing a theme in his annual State of the Union address, scheduled for Jan. 28.

With a U.S. Congress split between a Democratic-controlled Senate and a Republican majority in the House, Obama, who had a 41 percent job approval rating in a Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month, has been unable to get Congress to approve much of his economic agenda.

The president has said he’ll rely on executive actions and working directly with companies and private organizations, to go around the deadlock as 10.4 million Americans look for work.

“We’re not got to turn things around overnight,” Obama said. “A lot of jobs were lost.”

Lost Jobs

The U.S. is still 1.2 million jobs short of replacing all those lost in the last recession, the worst in more than seven decades.

North Carolina, where 7.4 percent of residents are unemployed, is the first to receive federal money as part of what Obama said during his State of the Union speech last year would be three “manufacturing hubs.”

The plans in North Carolina call for a new public-private manufacturing institute focused on developing energy-efficient electronic chips and devices.

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded the project $70 million, which will be matched with another $70 million from local government and the companies involved, according to the White House. Two more such hubs will be announced in the coming weeks, Obama said.

Obama urged Congress to pass a bill from Senators Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, and Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, that he said would create 45 additional manufacturing hubs around the country.

North Carolina is viewed as competitive by both parties. Obama won the state by less than a percentage point in 2008 and lost by 2 points in 2012, and his approval rating have fallen there, as they have nationally. The state’s Democratic U.S. senator, Kay Hagan, is facing re-election this year. She remained in Washington and issued a statement supporting Obama’s visit instead of welcoming the president to her state.