Obama said manufacturers he's talked to say it's starting to make economic sense to bring back jobs they had outsourced to other countries "if we can make sure that we've got workers who have higher skills and can manage fancier machinery than folks in other places."
"And that's why we're helping more community colleges like this one to become community career centers, so folks who are looking for a new job or a better-paying job can learn the skills that businesses need right now," he said in a speech to students and local officials at Lorain County Community College in Elyria that was billed by the White House as an official visit but rang with political intent. "And that's good for all of us.
"Investing in a community college, just like investing in a new road or a new highway or broadband lines that go into rural communities, these investments are not part of some grand scheme to redistribute wealth. They've been made by Democrats and Republicans for generations because they benefit all of us. That's what leads to strong, durable economic growth. That's how America became an economic superpower.
"That's why we've got the best universities and colleges in the world. That's why we have cutting-edge research that takes place here, and that then gets translated into new jobs and new businesses, because somebody did the groundwork.
"When you take classes at a community college like this one and you learn the skills that you need to get a job right away, that does not just benefit you; it benefits the company that ends up hiring and profiting from your skills. It makes the entire region stronger economically. It makes this country stronger economically."
Obama proposed an $8 billion Community College to Career Fund in February as part of his 2013 budget. Its goal is to train 2 million workers for well-paying jobs in high-demand industries, the White House said.
The fund, which would need congressional approval, would be administered jointly by the departments of Labor and Education. The money would be used to bolster partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train workers in areas such as healthcare, transportation and advanced manufacturing, the White House said.
Obama called in his State of the Union address for "a national commitment" to help create "an economy built to last" by training 2 million workers "with skills that will lead directly to a job."
When Obama last visited the community college Jan. 22, 2010, as part of his "White House to Main Street Tour," he vowed to keep fighting for job growth and health insurance reforms.
At the time, Ohio's unemployment rate stood at 10.9 percent. The state's latest unemployment rate is 7.6 percent.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign bus, loaded up with state surrogates and phone-bank volunteers, was to drive circles around the college while Obama was there, the Romney campaign said.
Romney was considering going to Ohio Thursday to give his own speech about the economy, aides told The Washington Post.
The effort is part of a "bracketing" strategy, in which Romney is to stage "prebuttal" and "rebuttal" speeches to Obama designed to try to force the president on the defensive, the Post said.
"Our campaign is going to go toe-to-toe and post up against the Obama machine every day to help get the message out that Mitt Romney will be able to deliver what this president could not -- and that's a more prosperous America," Romney campaign Communications Director Gail Gitcho told the Post.
The Republican former Massachusetts governor Wednesday was to be in Charlotte, N.C., which hosts the Democratic National Convention the week of Sept. 3.
He booked a rooftop venue near the 73,778-seat Bank of America Stadium -- where Obama is expected to formally accept his party's nomination for re-election -- to deliver a prebuttal to Obama's nomination speech.
Romney's message will boil down to, "Are you better off than you were four years ago, the last time Obama gave a convention speech?" aides told the Post.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith told the Post in an e-mail: "The Romney campaign's strategy is clear: They will go to every end to distort the president's record and policies because they know that voters will not elect Mitt Romney on his own merits."
Obama was to follow his visit to Ohio with two campaign events in the Detroit area.