President Barack Obama focused on jobs and energy efficiency while addressing politicians and employees at Cree’s  Durham, NC, headquarters on June 13. The president was visiting the LED manufacturer for a meeting of the Jobs and Competitiveness Council  that was created earlier this year to focus on creating more jobs in America.
While at Cree, Obama toured the company’s LED lighting product assembly facility along with Cree CEO Chuck Swoboda (pictured).
Later, Obama praised Cree as a company that is “helping to lead a clean energy revolution,” and said that skilled manufacturing jobs like those at Cree are “the jobs of the future.” Obama went on to say that despite high unemployment, companies are having a hard time filling these skilled positions because of the small number of graduates in fields like science, technology, engineering and math, a problem the president would like to remedy.
“If we’re going to make sure the good jobs of tomorrow stay here in America, stay here in North Carolina, we’ve got to make sure all our companies have a steady stream of skilled workers to draw from,” Obama said.
In order to do this, Obama and the Jobs and Competitiveness Council announced a plan to train 10,000 new engineers every year with help from private sector companies.
The president also emphasized the Council’s commitment to the Better Buildings Initiative, which seeks to create jobs by making buildings more energy efficient.
“Upgrading buildings for energy efficiency could save America’s businesses up to $40 billion a year on their utility bills. And obviously that $40 billion could be better spent growing and hiring new workers,” Obama said. “It will boost manufacturing of energy-efficient products like those made here at Cree. It will put contractors and construction workers back on the job. It is a win-win-win-win proposition.”
Michelle Murray, Cree’s Head of Corporate Communications, says Cree employees are proud that the Obama administration considers Cree a success story in terms of job growth, economic stimulus and innovative technology.
“Energy efficiency is a great catch-all phrase, but it can be hard to get to the bottom line,” Murray says. “Energy efficient lighting is something people can implement now, not down the pipe as much as wind or solar. LED lighting is ready to be implemented, and one of the biggest challenges we face is awareness and letting people know that it’s ready now.”
The visit also created a great deal of excitement among Cree employees, according to Murray, who joked that the president is the only person for whom Cree would shut down its busy manufacturing line.
“It’s not everyday that the most senior official in the U.S. comes to your place of work and applauds what you do,” Murray says. “But being able to pause for a moment to show him that Americans are making this product was pretty exciting.”