In North Carolina, Biden Touts Historically Black College NC A&T as Model for Economic Recovery

President Joe Biden at NC A&T University in April. On Wednesday, Biden announced that he would deliver on a campaign promise, canceling student debt for many Americans. The move could have significant impacts in N.C., which has the seventh-highest average debt in the nation, according to Lending Tree. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

By Michael McElroy

April 14, 2022

Against the backdrop of a Russian invasion in Ukraine that’s exacerbated economic issues, the president calls for renewed investments

If the United States wanted a map to a brighter, more equitable and more innovative future, President Biden said on Thursday, it might start by looking at Greensboro, North Carolina.

Biden, speaking at North Carolina A&T University, which graduates more Black engineers than any school in the country, said that investments in communities, research and development, and American manufacturing centers were the keys to solving immediate problems like inflation and securing America’s role as a world leader in “technologies that haven’t even been invented yet.”

“More is going to change in the next 10 years,” he said, “than has changed in the last 50 years.”

And who is an example of this kind of thinking?

He pointed to “Thomas Built Buses” down the road in High Point.

“It’s incredible,” Biden said. “They got the largest order to date in North America to build electric school bus fleets,” he said, which means that “hundreds of thousands of our children will no longer be inhaling exhaust from diesel school buses.”

That is the map forward, he said, and the basis for new bipartisan legislation, “the Innovation Act.” The bill, hac has been introduced in Congress but not gotten a vote, would provide $90 billion toward development, STEM education, and manufacturing, Biden said, “all those elements of the supply chain that we need to produce right here in America.”

The investments were needed to secure America’s future amid the dangers of climate change and other huge issues, and to address current inflation.

He called on Congress to pass the bill immediately.

“Our economic strength is on the line, our national security as well is on the line,” he said.

“Companies are ready to invest in America’s communities and American workers, but they need to see that their government is capable of investing in our future.”

Biden also pointed to Volvo Trucks, whose research and development headquarters is in Greensboro. “They just got the largest commercial order ever for commercial trucks,” Biden said.

And then of course there is Toyota, and their $1.3 billion pledge to build a manufacturing plant for electric car batteries in Greensboro.

Investments and innovations like these, Biden said, make the next ones possible, and help bolster both the country overall and the communities the businesses are in.

The Toyota plant, he said, would make enough batteries every year to fuel 800,000 vehicles, and would create “1,750 good-paying jobs right here in the Greensboro community.”

He also pointed to new pledges by General Motors and Ford to invest billions in primarily electric vehicles, moves that he said indicated “a major, fundamental shift is taking place.” This innovation-centered thinking , he added, would allow the United States to “catch up and lead it instead of being outpaced by China and other countries.”

Such a bright future, however, would mean investments in people, not just technology, and in providing “good paying jobs, jobs you can raise a family on, jobs that can’t be outsourced,” Biden said.

“We stopped investing in our people.”

Rising Costs

The future is a concern, Biden said, but he acknowledged that current worries over rising costs were hard to look past.

The Innovation Act would help with that too, he said,.

Inflation is driven in large part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Biden said, with more than 70% of rising costs tied directly to the invasion’s impact on oil prices.

“We need to address these high prices and urgently,” he said.

“When we build more in America we increase economic capacity,” he said “which helps lower everyday prices for families.”

Other takeaways:

Biden said that the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion legislation to respond to the economic effects of the pandemic, had done its job in North Carolina.

“North Carolina, thanks to the American Rescue Plan and the leadership of Gov. [Roy] Cooper, has added 194,000 jobs in the last 14 months,” Biden said, “Good jobs.”

But unlike in past recoveries, he said, “with the American Rescue Plan, we made a choice to bring everyone along. Not only has the unemployment rate dropped at a record pace in North Carolina and across the country, but Black unemployment fell by more than 30%, he said, and Latino unemployment dropped from about 9% to 4.2% in 2021.

The legislation also helped lower child poverty, home foreclosures and credit card delinquencies, he said, because “families had more money in their pockets to pay their bills.”


  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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