President Obama to travel to Raleigh-Durham area

Jan. 09, 2014 @ 06:36 PM

President Obama will return to the Raleigh-Durham area Wednesday for an event focused on the economy, a White House official confirmed in an email.

Further details on the trip to North Carolina are expected to be available in the coming days, the email said.

The event comes ahead of the president’s Jan. 28 State of the Union address, in which he’s expected to talk about expanding the minimum wage as a means to address income inequality, among other issues.

That won’t be the president’s first visit to North Carolina, or to the Triangle.

Last year after his State of the Union address in February, Obama traveled to an auto parts plant in Asheville to promote his plan for strengthening the nation’s economic recovery and for building the middle class.

He advocated for raising the minimum wage, and said he believes the country can attract jobs by investing in new sources of energy, new infrastructure, and the “next generation of high-wage, high-tech American manufacturing.”

In June 2013, he visited Charlotte, and in September 2011, he made a trip that included a stop at a Wake County manufacturer and a speech at N.C. State University.

Obama visited Durham-based Cree Inc., a company that makes energy efficient LED lighting products in 2011 and also in May 2008.

 “He thinks a lot of North Carolina,” said Durham Mayor Bill Bell, who also mentioned the Obama’s campaign fundraising event in Durham in 2007 at N.C. Central University’s O'Kelly-Riddick Stadium. Obama was then an Illinois senator.

Bell said he hopes the president will push for an extension of emergency federal unemployment benefits, and also will urge N.C. political leaders to expand Medicaid.

“To me, all of those things are somewhat tied to employment and jobs,” Bell said.

John Coleman, a professor of economics at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, said income inequality and access to higher education for the middle class have been high on the president’s list of discussion topics recently.

“North Carolina has got three major universities right there, and I guess that sort of fits in well into the kinds of topics that he’s talking about in terms of trying to bring down the cost of education for a good fraction of the population,” Coleman said. “That’s my guess -- beyond that, I don’t know.”

Andrew High, press secretary for U.S. Rep David Price, D-4th, said in an email that Price is confident Obama “will continue to outline Democrats’ vision for strengthening the middle class and those trying to reach it.

“He also hopes the President will continue to push for Congress to pass legislation extending emergency federal unemployment benefits.”