President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in the Triangle this morning, hoping to find ways to accelerate job growth in an economy where high unemployment continues to be a drag on the recovery.
The president is scheduled to meet with his 26-member Jobs and Competitiveness Council – a group of mainly high-powered business executives – where he is to receive a “progress report” for speeding up job creation.
The group is expected to release a set of recommendations today on how to spur both short-term and long-term growth in such sectors as manufacturing, construction, clean energy, health care and tourism.
“We have had 15 straight months of private sector job creation and seven straight quarters of growth” Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to the president, said in a briefing with reporters. “We are moving in the right direction. But the president is not satisfied with the pace of job creation.
“We all agree there is more that can be can be done to accelerate the pace of job growth,” Jarrett said. “There is broad agreement that the recovery will be driven by the private sector.”
In an article in Monday's Wall Street Journal, two of the executives on the council, GE CEO Jeff Immelt and American Express CEO Ken Chanault, outlined some of their ideas:
-- Do a better job of working with community colleges and vocational schools to train workers. There are more than two million open jobs in the U.S. because employers can't find workers with advanced skills that they need.
-- Streamline permitting, making it easier to obtain permits.
-- Boost tourism by making it easier to visit the U.S. through improved visa processes.
-- Help small business owners obtain information and support they need to gain Small Business Administration funding.
-- Put more construction workers back on the job. More than two million construction workers are unemployed. More work can be done to make buildings more energy efficient.
The president's Job's Council will meet at Cree, an LED lighting company in Durham. The council was formed in March and this is the first meeting outside the White House.
Before the meeting with the president, the Jobs Council, which also includes high-profile business leaders such as Steve Case, CEO of Revolution, and Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, was scheduled to hold five sessions throughout the Triangle to listen to local business leaders on what can be done to improve job creation.
The president arrives at a time when there has been disappointing news on the job front. The nation's unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in May. In in North Carolina it was 9.7 percent in April, the latest data available.
Recent polling has found public disapproval of Obama's handling of the economy, with a Washington Post-ABC poll showing it has risen to 59 percent. No president since World War II has won re-election when the jobless rate was above 7.2 percent.
Cree, a LED lighting company, has become a favorite drop-by spot for political figures, in part because it is a new energy-efficient company that has grown from a small group of engineers to about 5,000 employees including 2,000 workers in Durham.
“This is a great example of how we can manufacture great products in the United States,” said Jen Psaki, the White House deputy communications director.
The decision to hold the jobs meeting in North Carolina has political implications. North Carolina, which Obama barely carried in 2008, is expected to be a key swing state in the 2012 election.
In holding the jobs council here, Obama was not only underscoring his focus on jobs, but he brought some of the major corporate figures in the country to the Triangle, as well as some of the key figures of his administration.