President Barack Obama paid a quick West Coast sales call for his education and high-tech agenda, dining with industry royalty at a private meeting in Silicon Valley before touring a state-of-the-art semiconductor plant in Oregon.
After visiting with a group of science fair students and peering at the image of atoms seen through an electron magnoscope, Obama renewed the theme sounded in his State of the Union address, with a nod toward his recent focus on deficit reduction.
"Even as we have to live within our means, we can't sacrifice investments in our future," Obama told several hundred guests and employees gathered at Intel Corp.'s suburban Portland, Ore., campus Friday. "If we want the next technological breakthrough that leads to the next Intel to happen here in the United States — not in China, not in Germany — then we have to invest in America's research and technology, in the work of our scientists and engineers."
Obama has pushed for increased spending on education, high-speed Internet, high-speed rail and green technologies — even as other federal programs are slashed or frozen — as a way to create jobs and better position the U.S. for competition in an increasingly globalized economy. Republicans call "investment" a euphemism for expanding the size and heft of government and have called for drastic budget cuts.
Obama found a friendly audience in Oregon, a Democratic stronghold, and an unlikely host in Intel Chief Executive Paul Otellini, who contributed to Obama's Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, in 2008 and has been critical of the president's economic and health care policies.
The relationship has thawed as Obama endorsed an extension of the research and development tax credit — a legislative priority forIntel and other tech firms — and taken other steps to reach out to business leaders. On Friday, Obama named Otellini to his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, an economic advisory group.
Otellini, for his part, announced after the tour that Intel would build a $5 billion manufacturing facility in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler. The Arizona facility will create thousands of new jobs and will be the most advanced high-volume semiconductor factory in the world, he said.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, White House press secretary Jay Carney acknowledged Otellini's past criticism. "The president wants to hear from a lot of different voices," Carney said en route to Portland, Obama's only other West Coast appearance Friday.
"The point is not to collect people who agree with him on every issue and every policy decision he's made," Carney said, "but to create an environment, a council ... where ideas, good ideas, can be generated for going forward on job creation."
Before heading to Oregon, Obama dined Thursday night at the Woodside, Calif., home of venture capitalist John Doerr, a major Democratic donor. The private meeting included several marquee names from the tech industry, including Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs, Google Inc. CEO Eric Schmidt, Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg and Yahoo Inc. CEO Carol Bartz.
Carney said the president and business leaders discussed Obama's proposals to spur investment and hiring, as well as ways to encourage children to study math, science and engineering.