Reporter Q and A: Obama visits Charlotte
Air Force One landed at Charlotte Douglas Airport around lunchtime today for a brief visit from President Obama. It was his first to Charlotte since being elected president and he used the stop to talk about the economy and encouraging new jobs numbers. WFAE's Julie Rose talks with Mark Rumsey about the visit. MARK: Julie, the president noted that U.S. businesses added 162,000 new jobs in March. Do we know how many of those were created in Charlotte? JULIE: We won't have those specifics for a few more weeks. We do know jobs are being created - we've had big announcements like Siemens, Electrolux. But so far, those new jobs aren't outnumbering the jobs being lost. The national unemployment rate stayed steady at 9.7 percent. Here in Charlotte we're at 12.8 percent. Economists expect that to climb higher because a lot of people are coming off the sidelines to look for work. MARK: Did the president acknowledge that in his speech? JULIE: Indirectly. Here's what he said: PRES. OBAMA "We have to be mindful that today's job numbers, while welcome, leaves us with a lot more work to do. It will take time to achieve the strong and sustained job growth that we need." JULIE: Of course it was no accident that President Obama chose a company that's expanding in Charlotte as the site for his visit. Celgard got a federal stimulus grant and local incentives to help it create 300 new jobs over the next five years. It was also a chance for the president to tout energy policies. Celgard makes components for lithium batteries that are used to power lots of things, including electric cars and trucks. MARK: And Celgard employees got to ask some questions. What did they want to know? JULIE: Mostly about the president's plans to encourage clean energy, which makes sense because that's the business Celgard is in. Here's a sample: MICHAEL SHORE "I'm concerned that your decision to allow offshore drilling could have the effect of chilling investment into alternate sources of energy." That was a Celgard worker named Michael Shore talking about the announcement this week that the president wants to explore drilling for oil off the coast of North Carolina. The president said he's completely committed to clean energy, but that it will be awhile before we can abandon fossil fuels entirely: PRES. OBAMA "Unless somebody here invents something tomorrow, which would be very helpful - and if you have it let me know, we'll get it going right away. But what's most likely is that we're gonna have this transition and so in the interim, we've got to look at our traditional energy sources and figure out how can we use those most effectively?" The president gave pretty lengthy answers, so he only had time for five questions. MARK: And he did not make any public appearances while he was here? JULIE: Right. But that didn't stop people from getting involved. There were dozens of folks on Tryon Street near the Celgard site when I stopped there before the president's speech. A lot of them were Tea Party activists. They had signs, of course, but it was very orderly and respectful from what I saw. I spoke to one of the protesters named Swain Shepherd. He's from Rock Hill and he was there by 10:30 a.m. with his cooler ready for a long wait: SWAIN SHEPHERD: "We're gonna be here all day until he sees our signs and sees how upset everbody is. And uh, we want less government, less taxes and less spending." MARK: Protests like that are pretty common for presidential visits, aren't they? JULIE: Always. No matter what the president's political party. And of course, you always get a lot of onlookers because visits like this can be kind of a scene with the police escort and the motorcade of limos. I even met a family on their way to Fayetteville from Clover, South Carolina who stopped in a restaurant parking lot to wait a few hours for a glimpse of the president.