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Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 08/11/2011

Obama tries to change subject back to green jobs

It’s time for the president to get back on message.

After spending weeks talking about topics he probably would have preferred to avoid — debt limits, deficits, a plunging stock market — President Obama will hit the road Thursday to talk about jobs. Specifically, about how his administration is trying to create more of them.

Obama is scheduled to tour a factory in Holland, Mich., that makes advanced automobile batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles for Johnson Controls. The administration is eager to tout the company’s recent growth, spurred in part by a $299 million federal grant.

In June, Johnson Controls announced it would expand a facility in Toledo, a $6 million upgrade that could add 50 jobs. All told, the company has said its advanced battery operations could create 500 new positions.

The White House said in a statement that Obama plans to highlight “the key role innovative technologies will play in helping automakers achieve the historic fuel economy standards, establishing U.S. leadership in advanced vehicle manufacturing, spurring economic growth and creating high-quality domestic jobs in cutting edge industries across America.”

The trip will be the president’s first outside the Washington area since June, not counting his 50th birthday/campaign fundraising party in Chicago last week or a Tuesday helicopter flight to Dover Air Force Base, where he paid respects to the 30 U.S. servicemen killed Saturday in Afghanistan.

After spending most of the past five weeks in partisan Washington gridlock, Obama has been eager to get out of town and switch subjects. Polls show plummeting disapproval ratings for both the president and his adversaries in Congress. He has said his top priority is spurring employment, and he is planning a three-day bus tour through Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois next week to talk about the economy.

But the Federal Reserve issued a statement Tuesday that “economic growth so far this year has been considerably slower” than expected.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the administration recognizes that “the economy has slowed down, that the growth has not been where outside economists, as well as inside [ones], believed it would be at this stage this year.”

Carney added, “We continue to believe, as we believe outside analysts continue to believe, that the economy will keep growing, and we need to do what we can to ensure that it does and to ensure that it creates jobs at the fastest pace possible.”

The trip marks Obama’s second visit to Holland in 13 months. In July 2010, he attended the groundbreaking for another company’s battery facility.

Whether such appearances will make a difference to the larger economy and his 2012 reelection chances remain to be seen. But his personal touch is playing well in the Michigan city.

“The visit . . . will cement Holland’s status as the advanced battery center of North America in public perception as well as in reality,” the Holland Sentinel said in a recent editorial. “So it’s time for Holland to roll out the red carpet and once again enjoy our moment in the national spotlight.”

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 08/11/2011

 
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