Obama visited the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant in Redford where he praised the crowd of current employees and previous generations of workers who, for more than 70 years, "have done your part to build up America's manufacturing strength."
Companies such as Daimler, based in Germany, know that investing in America's workers is a "smart bet," Obama said.
"The competitive balance is tipping a little bit" in America's favor and companies are seeing "it makes sense to invest here in America."
The economy is growing again, business has created more than 5.5 million new jobs during the last 33 months and the country is "making progress ... moving in [the] right direction ... going forward."
If nothing is done, Obama said, taxes for a typical middle-class taxpayer will jump by about $2,200 come Jan. 1.
"I want to bring down our deficits, but do it in a balanced, responsible way," he said, later urging Congress to allow lower tax rates enacted during George W. Bush's presidency to remain in effect for the first $250,000 in income, while allowing tax rates incomes that exceed that level to expire.
"Everybody says they agree with it, so let's get it done," Obama said of keeping the lower rates for the middle class.
"I've said I will work with Republican on a plan for economic growth, job creation and reducing the deficit," Obama said. "I'm willing to compromise."
But lawmakers must be willing to make investments in America's future, such as education, research and development.
"Our economic success never come from [the] top down; it came from middle out," Obama said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., said time is running out to act on a plan to avoid the cliff.
"We're getting down to as late as it's physically possible to actually turn a framework into enactable legislation and then actually get it passed," Coons told The Washington Post.
"For senators to responsibly vote on a big, bold framework or package, we need time to review, debate and discuss this. And we are rapidly running out of running room," he said, explaining he anticipated a complex bill with "many real consequences for average Americans' lives."
His comments came after Obama met privately at the White House Sunday with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in their first face-to-face meeting in nearly a month.
It was also their first one-on-one session since July 2011, when they tried to forge a far-reaching "grand bargain" on taxes and spending.
Neither side would provide details, but the White House and Boehner's office issued identical statements afterward saying "the lines of communication remain open."
Disclosure of the meeting indicated private discussions were moving forward despite political theatrics and threats from both sides, the Los Angeles Times said.
Economists warn the broad tax increases, combined with across-the-board deep spending cuts for virtually every government program and department, could cause the economy slip back into recession.