Can Biden win votes with green jobs policy?

The former “carpet capital of the world” is receiving a multi-billion-dollar makeover. Here in the rural Georgian town of Dalton, once known for its fabric floor coverings, a Korean company called Qcells is spending $2.5bn to expand its solar panel factory, with another in the works.

It’s a bold initiative that will create 2,500 quality jobs in the next 12 months, in an area where the average household income is roughly 27% below the national average. It is hoped the project will revitalise a corner of the US whose glory days seemed over.And it’s due in no small part to someone many of the residents of this Republican district would rather not credit – Joe Biden.

The president’s landmark 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) – his signature green legislation – offered hundreds of billions of dollars in tax incentives, credits and loans to stimulate American manufacturing in clean energy.The most ambitious climate legislation in US history has generated a tsunami of private sector investments, with big implications for the rest of the world. And Georgia – a state President Biden hopes is in play in this year’s presidential election – has been a big beneficiary.

But with four months before the president goes head-to-head against Donald Trump, the billions of dollars of new investment in this key battleground state doesn’t appear to have lifted the incumbent’s support.President Biden’s pitch is that solving the climate problem is also good for jobs. Since the law was passed, more than 300,000 clean energy jobs have been created in the US, according to the advocacy group Climate Power.And there’s no doubt it’s creating opportunities in places like Dalton. Here you see Bidenomics in action – foreign and government money being used to fight climate change and build an economy from the middle out.

Scott Moskowitz, head of market strategy for Qcells, says that Georgia had been a great home since 2019, but that the IRA had been an “accelerant”. Without it, he muses, the current expansion might not have happened at all.“What our industry has seen, since the IRA has passed, is more investment in the past two years in solar and clean energy manufacturing than the previous 20 years,” he says.And yet that message either isn’t getting through or simply isn’t resonating with locals – not even local Democrats.

Jan Pourquoi, the spokesperson for the local Whitfield County Democratic Party, tells me: “In the business community, there is a resentment against that company [Qcells].”Pourquoi, a Belgian expat should know. He owns one of the small carpet firms in town. We spoke in his office, overlooking the factory floor where they turn flooring remnants into small rugs.“The business community resents the fact that we have a company from South Korea coming in this area with government subsidies, while they themselves get nothing from the government,” says Pourquoi, who identified as a Republican before switching parties following Trump’s election in 2016.

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