Alan Questell: “Finally! As reported here.”

☞ See? And it took just 11 years from the time we first made the request.


CBS News reports 500 new health care information technology jobs sited here instead of South America . . . 3,700 new jobs from Quicken . . . a boost to the small businesses serving them all lunch . . . signs of life at last.


A good note, I hope, on which to usher in a promising new year:

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Forsyth Technical Community College
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Monday, December 6, 2010

Hello, Winston-Salem! It is great to be back in North Carolina. And it is an honor to be here with all of you at Forsyth Technical Community College.

It’s been about a month now since the midterm elections. And in Washington, much of the chatter is still about the political implications of those elections – what the results mean for Democrats, what they mean for Republicans, and already, what they mean for the next election.

But I came to Winston-Salem because I believe that right now, there are bigger issues at stake for our country – issues that call on us to respond not as partisans, but as Americans. At this moment, we are still emerging from a once-in-a-lifetime recession that has taken a terrible toll on millions of families – many here in North Carolina who have lost their jobs, their businesses, and their sense of security about the future.

Fortunately, we’ve seen some encouraging signs that a recovery is beginning to take hold. An economy that had been shrinking for nearly a year is now growing again. After nearly two years of job loss, our economy has added over one million private sector jobs in 2010. And after teetering on the brink of liquidation not two years ago, our auto industry is posting healthy gains.

But as we saw in November’s jobs report, the recovery is simply not happening fast enough. Plenty of Americans are still without work. Plenty of Americans are still hurting. And our challenge now is to do whatever it takes to accelerate job creation and economic growth.

In the short-term, that means preventing the middle-class tax increase that’s scheduled for January 1st. Make no mistake: this tax hike would be a disaster for working families, a drag on our economy, and we have to stop it. We should also keep in place other tax cuts for working families and businesses that are set to expire. There’s no reason these Americans should see their taxes go up. And we should extend unemployment insurance for workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. That’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do – because if millions of Americans stop spending money, it slows down businesses, it slows down hiring, and it slows down our recovery. [NOTE: ALL THIS GOT DONE SHORTLY AFTER HE MADE THIS SPEECH.]

Still, even if we take these and other steps to boost our recovery in the short-term, we also have to make some serious decisions about our economy in the long run. We have to look ahead – not just to the next year, but to the next five years and ten years and twenty years. And we have to ask ourselves, “Where will the new jobs come from? What will it take to get them? And what will take it to keep the American Dream alive for our children?”

Just like past generations did, we must be prepared to answer these questions in our time. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be meeting with my economic team, business leaders and others to develop specific policies and budget recommendations for the coming year. But today I want to outline the broader vision that I believe should guide these policies – a vision that will keep our economy strong, growing, and competitive in the 21st century.

That vision begins with a recognition of how our economy has changed over time. When Forsyth Technical opened fifty years ago, it was known as the Forsyth County “Industrial Education Center.” Machine shop and automotive mechanics were some of the first classes you could take. Of course, back then, you didn’t even need a degree to earn a decent living. You could get a job at the local tobacco or textile plant and still be able to provide for yourself and your family.

That world has changed. In the last few decades, revolutions in communication and technology have made businesses mobile and commerce global. Today, a company can set up shop, hire workers, and sell their products wherever there’s an internet connection. It’s a transformation that has stitched the world together in what we call the global economy; and one that has touched off a fierce competition among nations for the jobs and industries of the future.

The winners of this competition will be the countries that have the most educated workers, the strongest incentives to innovate, and the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information. To succeed, you need the best schools and the best teachers; a serious commitment to research and technology; access to quality infrastructure like roads and airports; high-speed rail and high-speed internet. These are the seeds of economic growth in the 21st century. Where they are planted, the most jobs and businesses will take root.

In the last century, America was undoubtedly that place. Our economic leadership in the world went unmatched. Now it’s up to us to make sure that we maintain that leadership in this century. At this moment, the most important contest we face as a nation is not between Democrats and Republicans. It’s between America and our economic competitors in the world.

There is no doubt in my mind that we can win this competition. The United States is home to the world’s best universities and research facilities; the most brilliant scientists, the brightest minds, and some of the hardest-working, most entrepreneurial people on Earth.

But as it stands right now, the hard truth is this: in the race for the future, America is in danger of falling behind. In just a decade, we’ve fallen from 1st place to 9th place in the proportion of our young people with college degrees. When it comes to high school graduation rates, we’re ranked 18th out of 24 industrialized nations. We’re 27th in the proportion of science and engineering degrees we hand out, and 48th in the quality of our math and science education.

When global firms were asked a few years back where they planned on building new research and development facilities, nearly 80% said either China or India. In fact, the largest private solar research and development facility in the world was recently opened in China – by an American company. Today, China also has the largest airport, the fastest trains, and most recently, the fastest supercomputer in the world.

In 1957, just before this college opened, the Soviet Union beat us into space by launching a satellite known as Sputnik. It was a wake-up call that caused the United States to boost our investment in innovation and education – particularly in math and science. We offered more scholarships and more loans and more research funding. As a result, we not only surpassed the Soviets, we developed new American technologies, American industries, and American jobs.

Fifty years later, our generation’s Sputnik moment is now. If the recession has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot go back to an economy driven by too much spending, too much borrowing, and the paper profits of financial speculation. We must rebuild on a new, stronger foundation for economic growth. We need to do what America has always been known for: building, innovating, and educating. We don’t want to be a nation that simply buys and consumes products from other countries. We want to create and sell products all over the world that are stamped with three simple words: “Made In America.”

I came to Forsyth Technical today because you have shown what this future can look like. You have shown that it’s possible to change with the times. Half a century later, you’re still giving students the skills and training they need to get good jobs, but courses in machine shop and car mechanics have broadened to degrees in mechanical-engineering technology, nanotechnology, and biotechnology. Meanwhile, the unique partnerships you’re building with advanced manufacturing and biotechnology firms will ensure that the businesses of the future come here and stay here and hire right here in Winston-Salem.

In fact, as a national leader in bioscience and innovation, North Carolina is now the country’s third largest employer in biotechnology. And when Caterpillar recently decided to build a plant in this community, they told President Green one of the main reasons was that “…they were convinced that Forsyth Tech had the capability or providing them with the technical workforce they need.” That’s something everyone in this room should be very proud of.

Of course, none of this progress happened on its own. It happened thanks to the hard work of the students here at Forsyth, the commitment of local leaders, the foresight of local business owners, and it happened because there was a decision made to invest in the collective future of this community. It happened because there was a decision to invest in this college, as well as the loans and scholarships that make it affordable to go here. To invest in the basic research and development that helped jumpstart North Carolina’s biotech industry. To invest in new buildings and laboratories and research facilities that make your work possible.

These are the kinds of investments we need to keep making in communities across America – investments that will grow our economy and help us stay competitive in the 21st century.

Now, I say this knowing full well that we face a very difficult fiscal situation. When I took office, our deficit was $1.3 trillion. And if the economy had been humming along, reducing that deficit would have been one of my first priorities as President. Instead, we found ourselves in the middle of the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. And so our most important job was to do whatever it took to prevent a second depression – even if those steps added to the deficit temporarily.

Now that threat of a depression has passed, and a recovery is beginning to take hold, reducing our long-term deficit has to be a priority. In the long run, we won’t be able to compete with countries like China if we keep borrowing from countries like China. That’s why I proposed a three year freeze in all spending that doesn’t have to do with national security. That’s why I proposed a two year freeze in pay for all federal workers. And that’s why we’re currently studying the recommendations of the bipartisan deficit reduction panel I commissioned. We need to be bold and courageous in eliminating spending and programs that we don’t need and can’t afford.

What we can’t do, however, is cut back on those investments that have the biggest impact on our economic growth – because the best antidote to a growing deficit is a growing economy. To borrow one analogy, cutting the deficit by cutting investments in areas like education and innovation is like reducing the weight of an overloaded aircraft by removing its engine. It doesn’t make any sense. It will stunt our growth. And it will make us less competitive in the long run.

That’s why even as we scour the budget for cuts and savings in the months ahead, I will continue to fight for those investments that will help America win the race for the jobs and industries of the future – investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure.

In an era where most new jobs will require some kind of higher education, we have to keep investing in the skills and education of our workers. We know that the countries who out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow. And that’s why we are on our way to meeting the goal I set when I took office: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

To get there, we are making college more affordable for millions of students. We are making an unprecedented investment in community colleges just like this one – and just like Forsyth, we’ve launched a nationwide initiative to connect graduates that need a job with businesses that need their skills. And we are reforming K-12 education – not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up. Instead of indiscriminately pouring money into a system that’s not working, we’re challenging schools and states to compete with each other – to see who can come up with reforms that raise standards, recruit and retain good teachers, and raise student achievement, especially in math and science. We call it a Race to the Top, where you get more funding if you show more results.

Once our students graduate with the skills they need for the jobs of the future, we also need to make sure those jobs end up in America. We need to make sure the United States is the best place to do business and the best place to innovate. It’s time we have a tax code that encourages job creation here in America. And to boost our recovery, I’ve already proposed that all American businesses should be allowed to write off all the investment they do in 2011.

To encourage home-grown, American innovation, we should make it easier to patent a new idea or a new invention. And if you want to know one reason why more companies are choosing to do their research and development in places like China and India, it’s because the United States now ranks 24th out of 38 countries in the generosity of the tax incentives we provide for that purpose. That’s why I’ve proposed a bigger, permanent tax credit for companies for all the research and innovation they do here in America.

Still, a lot of companies don’t invest in basic research because it doesn’t pay off right away. But that doesn’t mean it’s not essential to our economic future. Forty years ago, it probably didn’t seem useful or profitable for scientists and engineers to figure out how to increase the capacity of integrated circuits. Forty years later, I’m still not quite sure what that means. What I do know is that their discoveries have made possible things like iPods, cell phones, GPS, and CT scans – products that have led to new companies and countless new jobs in manufacturing, retail, and other sectors.

That’s why I’ve set a goal of investing a full three percent of our Gross Domestic Product into research and development. If this is truly our Sputnik moment, we need a commitment to innovation that we haven’t seen since President Kennedy challenged us to go to the moon. And we’re directing a lot of that research into one of the most promising areas for economic growth and job creation – clean energy technology. Because I don’t want to see new solar panels or electric cars or advanced batteries manufactured in Europe or Asia. I want to see them made right here in America, by American businesses and American workers.

I also want to make it easier for our businesses and workers to sell their products all over the world. The more we export abroad, the more jobs we support at home. That’s why we’ve set a goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years. And that’s why I’m so pleased that last week, we came closer to meeting that goal by finalizing a trade agreement with our ally South Korea – a nation that offers one of the fastest-growing markets for American goods. This deal will boost our annual exports to South Korea by $11 billion, which will support at least 70,000 American jobs.

The final area where greater investment will lead to more jobs and economic growth is America’s infrastructure – our roads, railways, runways, and information superhighways. Over the last two years, our investments in infrastructure projects have already led to thousands of good, private sector jobs, particularly for those in the construction industry who the recession has hit especially hard.

But we still have a long way to go. There’s no reason that over 90% of the homes in South Korea should have broadband internet access, while only 65% of American households do. There’s no reason China should have nearly 10,000 miles of high-speed rail by 2020, while America has just over 400; or why they should have trains that operate at speeds of over 200mph while we do not. And there’s no reason America’s infrastructure should be getting a grade of “D” from our own engineers.

We are the nation that built the transcontinental railroad and the first airplane to take flight. We constructed a massive interstate highway system and introduced the world to the power and possibilities of the internet. America has always been built to compete, and if we want to attract the best jobs and businesses to our shores, we have to be that nation again.

Throughout history, the investments I’ve talked about today – in education, innovation, and infrastructure – have commanded support from both Democrats and Republicans. It was Abraham Lincoln who launched the transcontinental railroad and opened the National Academy of Sciences; Dwight Eisenhower who helped build our highways; and Republican Members of Congress who worked with FDR to pass the GI Bill.

More recently, infrastructure bills have found support on both sides of the Congressional aisle. The permanent extension of the research and development tax credit was proposed by both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Our education reforms have been praised by both Democratic and Republican governors.

The point is, there are no inherent ideological differences that should prevent Democrats and Republicans from making our economy more competitive with the rest of the world. After all, we are all Americans, and we are all in this race together.

And so those of us who work in Washington have a choice to make in the coming weeks and months. We can allow ourselves to be consumed with the same small bore politics that have held us back before. We can focus on what’s necessary for each party to win the news cycle or the next election. Or we can do what this moment demands, and focus on what’s necessary for America to win the future.

For as difficult as the times may be, the good news is that we know that future could look like for the United States. We can see it in the classrooms that are experimenting with groundbreaking reforms, and giving children new math and science skills at an early age. We can see it in the wind farms and solar plants and advanced battery plants that are opening across America. We can see it here at Forsyth Technical – in your laboratories and research facilities and over at the biotechnology firms that are churning out jobs and business and life-saving discoveries. And just the other month, I saw part of America’s future during the science fair we held at the White House.

It was the first science fair we’ve ever held, and talking to some of these amazing young people was probably the highlight of my month. There was a team from Tennessee that had designed a self-powered water filtration plant so that homes in Appalachia could have access to clean water. There were children who had designed a way to make an entire town more energy-efficient. And the last person I spoke to was a young woman from Dallas, Texas.

Her name is Amy Chyao, and she’s sixteen years old. Her parents came to the United States from China, and Amy was born here. When she was a freshman in high school, she studied biology and became interested in cancer research. So after teaching herself chemistry over the summer, she designed a device that uses light to kill hard-to-reach cancer cells while leaving the healthy ones untouched. At 16 years old.

Amy went on to win the international science competition, and now she’s being approached by laboratories all across the country who want to work with her on developing this breakthrough cancer drug.

And as I’m standing there talking to Amy, and trying to pretend I understand everything she’s telling me, I’m looking at the portrait of Abraham Lincoln hanging over her head in the State Dining Room. And I remembered all that we’ve been through and all that we’ve overcome, and I thought to myself, you know what? The idea of America is alive and well. We are going to be just fine. As long as there are people like Amy and her parents, who still want to come to this country and add to our story. As long as there are people like the men and women here at Forsyth Technical, who are keeping us at the top of our game. And as long as all of us are willing to look past the disagreements of the moment to focus on the future we share. If we can do that, I have no doubt that this will be remembered as another American century. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless America.


Comments are closed.