Obama discusses jobs at company shifting focus to China

Amanda Carey Contributor
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President Barack Obama will visit the North Carolina-based Cree LED Light Company Monday to tour the plant and meet with his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness to discuss job creation and policies to spur economic growth.

But Cree, a major recipient of Recovery Act funds, may be sending that money straight to China. At the very least, its CEO, Chuck Swoboda, has a very China-centered strategy that involves building a new plant overseas, two facts that the Republican National Committee plans to highlight Monday morning prior to the president’s visit.

Cree received a $39 million as an Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit from the Recovery Act.

The company began developing clean energy technology, hired a few more hundred workers, and the administration touted it as a “true American success story” on the White House Web site.

Then in late 2010, the company opened its first plant in Huizhou City,China. That made Cree the first global LED company to locate a manufacturing plant in China.

But that plant is only beginning of an expansion in China, says Swoboda. At the opening of the plant, Swoboda boasted that more than 50 percent of Cree’s employees live and work in China.

“We will continue to invest here for both human talent and the most state-of-the-art technologies,” Swoboda said. “We have committed that in the coming three to five years, we will continue to expand our operation in Huizhou.”

Swoboda also promoted the company’s new strategy as “Cree Chip, China Heart,” adding that Cree will “push the health, scientific and orderly development of the LED industry in China … and make many more contributions to energy savings and emissions reductions in China.”

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Moreover, Swoboda told his Chinese audience that though it is a U.S. company traded on the Nasdaq, “Cree management never runs this company as a U.S. company.” This despite the millions it got from American taxpayers.

“This is just another example of an administration that talks about an economy that has turned around while ignoring what is happening to American families who are struggling to find jobs, pay higher food and gas prices and are dealing with the decline of their home value,” one Republican source told The Daily Caller.

This isn’t the first time, however, that Recovery Act funds have gone overseas. The Department of Energy, for example, acknowledged last year that for all the focus on green jobs, $2.3 billion in manufacturing tax credits eventually went to foreign firms in China, South Korea, and Spain.