The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


February 13, 2013

Obama starts policy campaign with manufacturing in N.C.


His advisers say the proposals will not add to the deficit, only reallocate money already in the budget.

Obama's challenge to revive a struggling middle-class economy is a big one here and in other states where manufacturing jobs have migrated overseas or been replaced by technology.

In North Carolina, the unemployment rate is 9.2 percent, more than a point above the national average. State lawmakers said this week that they will cut unemployment benefits, given such costs' drag on public finances. Other states are doing the same.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only three job categories showed declines in Asheville's workforce over the past year: manufacturing; government; and the mining, logging and construction sector.

About 8 percent of Asheville's labor force works in manufacturing. Those jobs have declined by 2.2 percent over the past year, and only the logging, mining and construction sector lost more. Obama advisers say a weak fourth quarter nationally may have played a part in the local manufacturing decline.

Obama chose the Linamar factory in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina as a parable for what he hopes will be America's manufacturing rebirth. His advisers say he is seeking to build on the 500,000 manufacturing jobs the national economy has created in the past three years, something they say few predicted.

Linamar, which is based in Canada, makes heavy engine parts and components, several of which dangled above the stage where Obama spoke Wednesday afternoon after shedding his suit jacket and rolling up his sleeves.

The White House said that in 2011 Linamar expanded its U.S. operations here using a closed Volvo Construction Equipment plant where 220 people had worked until it was shuttered the previous year. Since then, Linamar has hired 160 workers with plans to hire 40 more by the end of the year. The company has plants in China, Mexico and other countries competing for manufacturing jobs.

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