- The Washington Times - Friday, April 2, 2010

President Obama took advantage of good timing and promising news Friday when he arrived in recession-plagued North Carolina to promote his jobs agenda following the best U.S. unemployment report in three years.

“Today is a promising day,” Mr. Obama told workers assembled inside Celgard LLC, the Charlotte, N.C.-based company that makes parts for high-tech batteries. “We are beginning to turn around. More Americans are now getting up, getting dressed and going to work.”

Celgard last year won $49.2 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants to expand its capacity to produce parts called “separators” for lithium-ion batteries.

The company is one of the Obama administration’s success stories following the release last summer of $2.4 billion in Recovery Act grants to help companies make or increase the production of such batteries for hybrid, energy-efficient cars.

Mr. Obama said the company will now expand the Charlotte plant and open another in Plymouth, N.C., which will create 300 more jobs and 1,000 more for contractors.

The announcement was welcome news for residents of North Carolina, where the unemployment rate is 11.2 percent compared to the national number of 9.7 percent for March, according to a Labor Department report Friday.

Mr. Obama also said the federal government will have to get involved in fixing the U.S. electric grid so the country can make more efficient vehicles.

“I don’t want the government involved any more than necessary,” he said. “But nobody would expect the private sector to fund the military. That’s where the government comes in, the same as for the electricity grid.”

During a question-and-answer session with Celgard employees, the president also touted his health-care overhaul law and defended accusations about “out-of-control spending” by the administration.

“I understand that,” he said. “But we will save $1 trillion.”

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