Obama to announce new manufacturing institute in North Carolina

President Obama will announce the formation of a new public-private manufacturing institute headquartered in North Carolina during his visit to the state on Wednesday.

The consortium, which will be housed at North Carolina State University, will work to design and manufacture semiconductor chips for use in personal electronics, electric vehicles and industrial tools.

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Seven universities and 18 companies are participating in the project, which will receive $70 million in federal commitments from the Department of Energy over the next five years.

Those funds will be matched by the partner schools and businesses, which hope to bring technologies designed at the institute to market — and, by extension, boost the local economy.

The announcement comes as the White House is looking to return focus to the president's economic agenda ahead of the State of the Union address later this month.

On Tuesday, Obama said programs like the innovation hub were an example of how government could work to ensure greater mobility and equality.

“There are a lot of folks down in North Carolina who are excited, because it’s a perfect example of the kind of public-private partnership that can really make a difference in growing our economy faster and creating the kinds of good-paying jobs that help people get ahead,” the president said.

The White House also hopes that the announcement, paired with two other Pentagon-funded hubs to be named in the coming weeks, will help inspire support for Obama's proposal to create 45 of the innovation consortiums.

“The president will continue to support this bipartisan legislation and will work with Congress to get it passed, and will continue to make progress where he can through existing authority to boost these partnerships that are key to supporting high-quality manufacturing jobs,” a White House official said in a statement.

Despite the award to North Carolina, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), who is facing a tough reelection battle in the fall, opted against joining President Obama at the event. A spokeswoman for the lawmaker old The Associated Press on Tuesday the senator will remain in Washington to attend to Senate business. 

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney insisted the trip “isn’t a campaign event” and chastised reporters for “the urgent desire to turn every story 10 months out into an election story.”

“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,” he said.