RALEIGH — President Barack Obama told hundreds at N.C. State University Wednesday that 2014 would be a year of action — and one of the first steps will be to headquarter a high-tech manufacturing hub on NCSU’s campus.
“Long term, the challenge of making sure everybody who works hard can get ahead in today’s economy is so important that we can’t wait for Congress to solve it,” he said in the speech. “Where I can act on my own without Congress, I’m going to do so.
“And today, I’m here to act — to help make Raleigh-Durham, and America, a magnet for the good, high-tech manufacturing jobs that a growing middle class requires and that are going to continue to keep this country on the cutting edge.”
NCSU will lead a collaboration of business and universities in a manufacturing innovation institute for next generation power electronics.
The Department of Energy is granting $70 million over five years, and a combination of money from the winning business, universities and the state will match that. Gov. Pat McCrory announced that North Carolina has committed a minimum of $10 million throughout five years.
The UNC system, which is part of the collaboration, will give $5 million, said Terri Lomax, NCSU vice chancellor for research, innovation and economic development.
Lomax said students, faculty and staff will be involved, but new hires will also be made.
The institute will develop new materials that are better at dealing with energy, Lomax said. New research — in which NCSU researchers have played a major part — has found a way to make energy transfer more efficiently, she said.
Lomax said the institute will translate the research into manufacturing.
McCrory, who greeted Obama at the airport and attended the speech, told reporters that he was glad the program is in the state to create jobs.
“All of us agree, Republicans and Democrats, we’ve got to grow manufacturing jobs, and manufacturing’s coming back to North Carolina,” he said. “And our job is to create jobs.”
Brooke Wilner, a sophomore at NCSU who shook hands with Obama, said the speech was especially relevant to her because of her aerospace engineering major.
“It was great to see him bring jobs to the state, especially engineering jobs,” she said.
UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt and NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson met with the president following the speech, Folt said. Today, she and Woodson will be at the White House for an event that will gather college and university presidents and state and business leaders from across the country and will focus on expanding college opportunity.
Obama spoke at NCSU in fall 2011 and at UNC-CH in spring 2012. Obama joked that he planned Wednesday’s speech in the afternoon so it would not interfere with the NCSU basketball game against Wake Forest.
“I’ve learned a few things as President, and one of them is not to compete with college basketball down here on Tobacco Road,” he said. “You don’t do that.”
Senior writer Nicole Comparato
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