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Obama: I won't 'wait for Congress' on economic fixes

RALEIGH, N.C. -- President Barack Obama was back at North Carolina State University to talk about jobs, but this time the speech was more about what he could do without Congress instead of what he’d like done legislatively this year.

"Long term, the challenge of making sure that everyone who works hard can get ahead in today's economy is so important we can't wait for Congress to solve it," he said. "Where I can act on my own without Congress, I’m going to do so."

President Barack Obama explains the motives behind a series of new manufacturing innovation institutes while speaking Wednesday at North Carolina State University.

The Tar Heel State event is part of what the White House is calling a “year of action.”  It’s a term the president and his team have been using since December to describe new policies – many to be enacted as executive actions – to maintain the economic recovery. 

Wednesday’s announcement of the first of three “manufacturing innovation institutes” not only follows through on a proposal the president made during the his 2012 State of the Union address but also is an example of one of the type of partnerships he hopes to facilitate with, as he put it Tuesday -- his pen and his phone.  

The money pledged by the federal government for the manufacturing institute was taken from already appropriated funds and combined with funding from private industry.  But the president also renewed his call for Congress to fully fund the project he envisioned: 45 manufacturing institutes throughout the country. 

While manufacturing and job growth were the focus of the president's remarks, the speech came with a tinge of the midterm politics that could prove awkward for Obama's fellow Democrats. 

At the beginning of the event, Obama praised Sen. Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat whose absence from the event was been cited by Republicans as a sign of political unease. Hagan faces a tough re-election in the state, where Obama’s approval rating has sunk. 

NBC's Carrie Dann contributed to this report.