Charlotte – President Barack Obama on Monday visited North Carolina to promote the creation of jobs and shore up his support among Hispanics.
Obama said in Durham, while meeting with a group of employees at the Cree, Inc., plant - a producer of energy-efficient devices - that "the single most serious economic problem we face is getting people back to work."
The president and the members of his Jobs and Competitiveness Council, made up of presidents of medium and large corporations around the country, held a private meeting to discuss strategies to increase the number of personnel qualified to work in high technology fields.
"Today, with the leadership of the Jobs Council, we're announcing an all-hands-on-deck strategy to train 10,000 new American engineers every year," Obama said at the Cree plant.
"Our Jobs Council, led by (GE chief) Jeff Immelt, they're doing this not counting on a whole bunch of federal funding. Private sector companies are teaming up to help us promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, to offer students incentives to finish those degrees, and then to help universities fund those programs," the president said.
This is the second time that Obama has visited North Carolina since he entered the White House in 2009, something that many political analysts have called part of his "preparation" for the battle that will be fought to once again win this southern state in the 2012 election.
In 2008, Obama won North Carolina by just 14,177 votes, the first time since 1976 that a Democratic presidential candidate had managed to capture its 15 electoral votes.
An analysis by the Washington-based Immigration Policy Center emphasized that the 20,468 Hispanics who voted for the Democrats that year were "indispensable" in Obama's presidential election victory.
The president's 2012 reelection campaign acknowledges the urgent need to keep the state in the Democratic camp, and the latest Census figures show growth in the Hispanic and black communities, the two groups that supported him heavily in 2008.
The number of Hispanics in North Carolina increased 111 percent over the past decade to 800,120, a figure that represents 8.4 percent of the state's more than 9.5 million residents.
A study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill revealed that in the recent presidential election, the registration of new Hispanic voters increased 40 percent compared with 5.1 percent for whites and 12.5 percent for blacks.