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Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, and Steve Jobs, the Apple founder and CEO now on his third medical leave, were among a dozen business leaders who met with Obama in California on Thursday. Also present for dinner at the Woodside home of venture capitalist John Doerr were the heads of Twitter, Yahoo!, NetFlix and Oracle, and the president of Stanford University.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said afterward that Obama wants to keep exchanging ideas with the group "so we can work as partners to promote growth and create good jobs in the United States." The meeting was closed to the media.
Obama wants to spend billions on clean energy, education, high-speed rail, faster Internet service and other programs even as he calls for a five-year freeze on domestic spending in other areas. The approach is getting a frosty reception from newly empowered Republicans on Capitol Hill, who are pushing steep cuts to a range of programs and balking at new spending.
The president argues that targeted spending, including education initiatives aimed at producing a more sophisticated workforce, is crucial for job creation and future U.S. competitiveness with other nations. A stamp of approval from the Silicon Valley's leading innovators and job creators could help.
At the same time, the president's meeting extends outreach to the business community that he's embarked upon since Democrats suffered steep losses in the November elections. With unemployment stuck at 9 percent, Obama has been pleading with corporate America to hire.
Carney said earlier Thursday that the high-tech sector has been "a model, really, for that kind of economic activity that we want to see in other cutting-edge industries in the U.S. where jobs can be created in America and kept in America, and that's what he wants to talk about."
After the meeting, which lasted more than two hours, Carney said Obama discussed his proposals to spend on research and development and to expand incentives for companies to grow and hire. The president also talked about his goal of doubling exports within five years to help create jobs, his plans for spending on education and a new initiative to support small business and start-up companies, Carney said.
The group also discussed ways to encourage people to study science, technology, engineering and math and to pursue careers in those fields, he said.
After California, Obama planned to tour Intel Corp.'s semiconductor manufacturing facility in Hillsboro, Ore., on Friday with CEO Paul Otellini. Otellini, who was among a group of CEOs who met privately with Obama in December, has criticized Obama's policies as creating uncertainty for businesses.
Obama has left Washington weekly since his Jan. 25 State of the Union address to highlight his plans to boost education, innovation and infrastructure. Education is this week's theme.
He last visited California and Oregon in October. He easily won both states in 2008.
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