Vice President Joe Biden stood today where R.J. Reynolds Tobacco shop workers once labored and evoked the image of that past economy as a bridge to a new one.

Biden visited Wake Forest Biotech Place, a $100 million research facility built from renovated R.J. Reynolds buildings. The site, which served as a tobacco warehouse and later was home to Reynold’s electric shop and other shop facilities, is now a 242,000 square-foot building housing some departments from the Wake Forest School of Medicine as well as operations of several life science and medical technology companies.

The technologies of these companies did not exist even a few years ago but Biden said that these are the kinds of companies that will create the jobs of the future.

“We don’t have to just create new jobs, we have to create new industries, things we’ve never thought of before,” Biden said.

North Carolina’s life sciences industry employs more than 226,800 workers at more than 500 companies, according to a 2010 Batelle Institute report.

Biden’s North Carolina visit came one day after U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, visited Raleigh to meet with business leaders and stump for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“We have a choice of two futures in front of us,” Ryan told WRAL. “Do we want to go on the current path we’re on, that President Obama’s put us on — a nation in debt, a nation in doubt and decline with a terrible jobs result — or are we going to elect a new president that’s going to tackle these fiscal problems?”

Biden’s North Carolina trip was not billed as an official campaign visit but the vice president took on the tone and the rhetoric of the presidential campaign. Biden criticized Republicans, saying that they have failed to act on the economy and he took his own shots at Ryan, saying that the Republican budget writer’s ideas will have a “devastating impact on America.”

Recognizing the emerging life sciences community at the Piedmont Triad Research Park, Biden said that Ryan’s budget would result in cuts to the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, “which could have an impact on the research going on right here in this park.”

Biden tried to strike an optimistic tone with his comments, saying that despite tough times Americans always come back. But Biden’s comments came on the heels of a dismal jobs report last week that showed that unemployment in May was rising.