Among the initiatives is a competition to create three new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, partnerships among businesses, universities and government to help U.S.-based manufacturers and workers create good jobs. Five federal agencies — the Defense, Energy and Commerce departments, NASA and the National Science Foundation — are putting $200 million toward the effort.
"We believe that manufacturing is worthy of that priority because it punches above its weight economically," said Gene Sperling, director of Obama's National Economic Council.
Before his remarks, Obama toured a classroom at the technology high school, marveling at solar powered model cars. After his remarks he rolled up his sleeves and joined a nurse, a teacher, a drywall contractor and a small business owner for lunch at Stubb's, a local barbecue restaurant.
It was Obama's second trip to Texas in two weeks. He was greeted at the foot of Air Force One by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, a critic of the president's policies. The two men chatted as they walked across the tarmac.
The attention to jobs comes amid questions about whether the second-term president has enough sway to get his agenda through a divided Congress before attention turns to the November 2014 midterm elections.
Since his second inauguration, Obama has lost a bid to expand background checks for gun buyers and was similarly unsuccessful at getting lawmakers to undo the spending cuts. On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee was beginning to consider scores of proposed changes to the immigration bill.
His jobs proposals have stalled in Congress, with Republicans showing no interest in job-creation plans based on new federal spending. They also argue that Obama's regulatory regime and new health care law — the president's signature domestic policy achievement to date — are hindering more robust job growth.
"The president doesn't seem to understand that it's his policies that are undermining economic growth and job creation," House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday as the president departed.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ridiculed Obama's trip as mere image-building.
"If you're someone who's all about the visual, then of course putting on a pair of goggles or showing up at a factory is a great way to at least look like you're doing something about job creation," he said.
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