The president was making his first trip to the city since he appeared at a series of fundraisers last June. The stops were intended to underscore the administration's efforts on early-childhood education and manufacturing.

Obama is also announced a memorandum that lays out best practices in reducing federal approvals for major infrastructure projects. The document builds on an executive order the president signed last year intended to cut review timelines for those major projects in half.

The White House has moved quickly in recent days in an attempt to quell the recent scandals, forcing the resignation of Miller on Wednesday and replacing him Thursday. Obama also called on Congress to fully fund the administration's diplomatic security budget request, a response to criticism he has faced over the handling of last year's attack on the diplomatic post in Benghazi.

But even before the scandals broke, Congress had spent less effort this year on the economy than on gun control and immigration. Gridlock has left Democratic and Republican lawmakers with few measures they can agree will speed the recovery. And the recent controversies will do little to bridge those divides.

The president's visit to Baltimore mirrored a trip he made to Texas last week to promote plans to increase federal investments in early-childhood education and manufacturing.

Bowe, Ellicott's president, said the company employs about 125 people in the city and exports its products around the globe.

He said the company manufactured all the dredges used in the building of the Panama Canal.

"What we build is mostly an American-made product, and in that respect the strength of companies like ours shows a way forward," Bowe said. "We hope the president uses the opportunity to see in a visceral way how exports can be the way forward for certain parts of the economy."

The otherwise photo-op-friendly trip became more complicated when Republicans noted that Bowe had testified before a House subcommittee Thursday in favor of building the Keystone XL pipeline.

GOP lawmakers have been pressuring the administration to approve the pipeline, which would run from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico, despite concerns from environmentalists.

A decision is expected later this year.

Maryland had a 6.6 percent unemployment rate in March, less than the 7.5 percent national rate.

Republicans dismissed the visit as a political stunt. They suggested the administration would have a more positive impact on the economy if the president met with legislative leaders to hammer out an agreement on deficit reduction and entitlement reform.

The president has been holding many of those meetings, but there has been little progress so far.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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