Since reopening, Cochrane has hired 74 people, a little more than half of his target employment. But that's no thanks to anything the president has done.
"If you look at the adminstration that he's put together and the people he's put together, they're all of his same ilk," says Cochrane. "They don't have any practical business experience. They just don't. And it's one of the problems that we have today."
Cochrane voted for McCain in 2008 and says he'll be casting his ballot for Romney this November.
But while things are still fairly bleak across the state, there are some bright spots.
A recent survey by The PNC Financial Services Group found that the number of new businesses in the Raleigh area was up 3 percent since 2008, nearly twice the national rate. One of those startups is Xanofi.
Launched in September 2010, the company is preparing to market a liquid-based nanofiber production process. CEO Miles Wright says the company's products could be applied to everything from filtration and drug delivery to cosmetics, food additives and acoustics.
Xanofi started with $1.2 million, mostly from "angel" investors. Employment has gone from two a year ago to 10 today.
"We expect to see revenue in the next couple of months," says the Dallas native, who moved to the Triangle in 1986. "We will be profitable in 2013."
Wright, a registered independent, chuckles at a new GOP ad calling this period "the worst economic recovery America has ever had."
"The fact is, it's still a recovery," he says. "Innovation hasn't stopped. People's efforts to commercialize technology, to open up a service business, while it gets harder because of lack of capital, I don't think people have stopped hoping and dreaming. And a lot of people have had success."
Wright says a lot of the job growth is happening in small companies like his "that maybe go a little under the radar." But the point is, it's happening.
"The narrative that we hear is one of gloom and despair," he says. "The world's a harder place. It's harder for the Bain Capitals of the world to do a leveraged buyout now than it was four years ago. It's harder for everybody."
Wright says the country was "hemorrhaging" when Obama took office. Four years later, he sees "a lot more opportunity" out there and no reason to change course.
"I voted for Obama four years ago," he says, "and I will vote for Obama again this year."
N.C. State economist Michael Walden says the economic meltdown was "largely beyond the control of politicians."
"It wouldn't have mattered who was president," he says. "The essential driver of the economy has been the deleveraging that households had to go through. Households entered the recession with record high debt levels."
Unfortunately for Obama, he says, "most people are not economists."
"The natural tendency is to look for rather simplistic answers," he says. "Rightly or wrongly, people tend to want to place blame."
Fountain clearly isn't where he wants to be. But, from his perspective, things are better than where they were a couple of years ago.
"We're still struggling to keep our car in the driveway and to keep a driveway to park the car in," he says. "You know, you just plug along and things will eventually turn around. You get up every day and do what you've got to do."
Allen G. Breed is a national writer, based in Raleigh, N.C. He can be reached at features(at)ap.org. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/(hash)!/AllenGBreed
EDITOR'S NOTE _ Another story in an occasional series, 'It's the Economy,' looking at the economies of battleground states in the coming election.
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