Obama will unveil a “North Carolina headquartered consortium of businesses and universities, led by North Carolina State University, to lead a manufacturing innovation institute for next generation power electronics,” according to the White House.
It’s the first of three manufacturing institutes Obama proposed in his 2013 State of the Union address.
The manufacturing sector took a beating in the last recession, and even as the industry recovers, job numbers will likely never fully reach past levels with companies using technology that requires less human labor.
The Obama administration made a $200 million commitment across the Defense Department, Energy Department, Commerce Department, NASA and National Science Foundation to facilitate the manufacturing institutes. Obama will announce the other two institutes in coming weeks.
The White House says the institutes will be paid for using “existing resources.”
“The institute will provide shared facilities, equipment, and testing and modeling capabilities to companies across the power electronics supply chain,” the White House said.
Though Obama is promoting his trip as a policy event, politics will be hard to ignore in the Tar Heel State.
Republicans have seized on the fact that North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, a red-state Democrat up for re-election this year, won't travel with Obama to her home state.
Hagan’s office says she is focused on business in Washington, but Republicans counter that the senator is avoiding an awkward photo-op in a state where the president’s approval ratings have recently been dropping.
“I think she's here working on important business,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters in Washington on Tuesday.
“We're certainly not looking at a visit designed to highlight the need to continue the progress we've made with advanced manufacturing as an issue of electoral politics,” Carney added.
Obama will also call on Congress to pass legislation that would establish 45 manufacturing institutes.
In July, Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Roy Blunt, R- Mo., and Reps. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., and Tom Reed, R-N.Y., co-sponsored legislation that would create a network of such facilities.
Also on Wednesday, Obama will tour a Vacon USA research facility, which builds AC drives.
Obama is also likely to push Congress to extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans. On Tuesday, the Senate blocked a measure to revive unemployment insurance that expired in December.