NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- President Barack Obama spoke about the critical role of manufacturing in the recovery of the U.S. economy during an appearance in Bettendorf, Iowa on Tuesday.

Obama, speaking at an Alcoa ( AA) aluminum rolling mill, emphasized the overall expansion of private sector jobs in the past 15 months over the recent softness in employment numbers.

"We've created more than 2 million new private sector jobs over the last 15 months alone, including almost 250,000 in manufacturing," Obama said, according to a transcript of the remarks posted on the White House's Web site.

He continued: "And here at this plant, the workers that were laid off during the darkest days of the recession have all been hired back. And in fact, you guys are telling me that you're thinking about hiring some more folks in the near future. That's worth applauding."

The president's appearance in Iowa comes as a slew of potential Republican presidential nominees have launched campaigns in the state with the message that Obama's economic policies have left the United States in a state of disrepair.

"I know you've been seeing a lot of politicians around lately; something tells me you may see a few more before February is over, but Iowa, you and I, we go a long way back," said Obama. "All of you are showing the future we can build in eastern Iowa and all across the country."

The Alcoa facility that Obama spoke at has a bit of history, having produced aluminum alloy used by Air Force One, armored vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Apollo moon missions.

Obama stressed the importance of innovation in order to create new domestic manufacturing jobs.

"We've always made things here in America," he said. "It's in our blood. This plant has been in operation for 60 years. And what you've learned is that if you want to beat the competition, then you've got to innovate."

Iowa currently has an unemployment rate of 6%, and its caucuses are expected to be the first electoral event in 2012 ahead of the impending Republican primaries.

--Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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