WASHINGTON - Vice President Joe Biden will travel to St. Cloud next week to highlight public transportation funding in the Obama administration's economic stimulus package, a White House official said Friday.

Biden, chairman of Obama's newly formed Middle Class Task Force, is scheduled to hold a town-hall meeting Thursday at the New Flyer Bus manufacturing plant, which grew by 90 workers last year to meet a two-year backlog of orders. The plant currently employs 650 people.

The visit, which will be formally announced today, will be the first visit by a top administration official to Minnesota since Obama came to office.

The task force, made up of administration Cabinet members and economic advisers, is meeting with labor and business groups around the nation to develop policy proposals aimed at raising middle class living standards.

New Flyer, based in Winnipeg, has plants in Crookston and St. Cloud and is a leading manufacturer of heavy-duty transit buses in the United States and Canada.

The $787 billion economic stimulus package recently passed by Congress contains $7.4 billion in transit funding, including $94.1 million in Minnesota.

The St. Cloud plant is in the heart of a congressional district represented by Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, who voted against the stimulus bill. "We're more than happy to have the vice president come to town," said Bachmann spokesman Dave Dziok. "We hope he gets a chance to speak with everyday St. Cloud residents, who will share with him the same thing the congresswoman has been saying: 'Stop spending our money.'"

The town hall meeting, called "Road to Recovery: Building a Strong Middle Class through the Recovery Act," will give Biden a chance to take questions from a live audience as well as through the website, www. AStrongMiddleClass.gov. The event will be open to the public, with ticket information to come.

Many state and federal officials have touted public transportation funding as a way to create private sector jobs and enable local transit authorities, including Metro Transit in the Twin Cities, to add new low-emissions buses and expand public transportation options.

New Flyer officials in St. Cloud referred media calls to the White House. A New Flyer executive in Winnipeg said that details of the visit are still being worked out and that the company had no further information.

In January, New Flyer announced that it received 4,815 new bus orders last year worth $2.78 billion. The St. Cloud plant opened in 1999.

Kevin Diaz • 202-408-2753