November 28, 2022

The White House is making a new effort to show local governments what it can do for their communities, hosting North Carolina officials to highlight funding opportunities and hear firsthand how coronavirus relief, infrastructure money and other policies are being achieved locally.

Thursday’s event reflects expanding use of the White House campus as pandemic restrictions ease. It’s also part of a larger initiative to host municipal, county and state officials on a weekly basis from all 50 states, coinciding with campaigning for the midterm elections in November as the White House attempts to revitalize Democratic voters.

“We are entering a phase in our administration where we can do more in terms of meeting at the White House,” said Julie Rodriguez, director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. “It’s so inspiring for us to be closer to the impact we’re having on the daily lives of Americans.”

One of the main messages of North Carolina officials’ visit is the recovery of manufacturing. Steady hiring since the middle of last year has brought total US manufacturing jobs to 12.85 million, the most since late 2008 as the financial crisis laid off more than two million employees in the sector.

Officials expected to discuss with the group from North Carolina Wolfspeed’s plans to invest $5 billion in building a silicon chip plant that is expected to create an estimated 1,800 jobs in the state.

This discussion will come on the heels of the first group visit by Ohio officials recently. President Joe Biden spoke earlier this month at the opening of a new Intel factory near Columbus. Ohio and North Carolina both have open seats in the Senate this year.

Thursday’s half-day event was scheduled to feature EPA Administrator Michael Reagan, who came from North Carolina. Rodriguez and Keisha Lance Bottoms, a former Atlanta mayor who is now a senior White House adviser, had to speak to the group.

Twenty-three North Carolina officials have been confirmed, including Representative Kathy Manning, state legislators, the mayors of Charlotte, Wilmington, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Concord, Kinston and Durham, as well as leaders from two counties Wake and Guildford.

Just as administration officials want to hear local stories, they also want to stress the potential opportunities local governments might have because of the bipartisan infrastructure law, incentives for computer chip development and scientific research, and a recent package to encourage climate-friendly energy sources and reduce prescription drug prices.

As part of today’s events, the White House planned to connect these officials with the regional media in a sign that they are trying to get the message across to the wider public. That will be crucial in terms of political messaging. Republicans seeking to control the House and Senate have blamed rising inflation on Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, while the administration says prices are a byproduct of global events like the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

The White House says its efforts have helped workers by rapidly bringing unemployment rates down to 3.7%, but Republican drumming is that consumer prices are up 8.3% from a year ago and the main cause for voter concern. Gasoline prices have fallen since peaking in June, but the Federal Reserve estimated on Wednesday that unemployment will likely rise to reduce inflation.

“Inflation plateauing above 8% does not mean families are falling apart — it just means the opposite,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a speech to the Senate on Monday. “This means that families continue to keep rising prices constantly.”

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