HILLSBORO, Oregon (Reuters) - President Barack Obama touted his agenda to foster innovation as a means of spurring job creation and boosting U.S. global competitiveness during a high-tech visit to the Pacific Northwest on Friday.
Obama used a tour of an Intel Corp semiconductor plant in Oregon to underscore his commitment to finding ways to reduce stubbornly high unemployment — considered crucial to his 2012 re-election chances.
While facing a brewing budget fight back in Washington, Obama sought to showcase research, development and education — areas he has vowed to protect from spending cuts — as keys to rejuvenating the sluggish U.S. economy.
“Even as we have to live within our means, we can’t sacrifice investments in our future,” Obama told Intel’s workers. “If we want to win the future, America has to out-build, out-educate, out-innovate and out-hustle the rest of the world.”
Obama, in his State of the Union speech last month, called on Americans to rally around a “Sputnik moment” — akin to the space race unleashed when the Soviets launched their first satellite in the 1950s — for an increased focus on technological advances.
The aim is to unleash a wave of innovation to face down fast-growing economic powers like China and India and generate new jobs at home.
Obama’s $3.7 trillion budget proposal for fiscal 2012 released this week seeks to keep funding for research, education and infrastructure intact even as it attempts to rein in deficit spending in some other areas.
Republicans say Obama is not going far enough in embracing fiscal restraint and deeper cuts are needed.
The president’s visit to the Hillsboro plant gave him a chance to see first-hand what Intel has billed as the world’s most advanced semiconductor manufacturing site and to draw attention to programs to advance science, math and engineering studies.
Citing the need to prepare Americans for new high-tech jobs and restore U.S. leadership in higher education, the White House said Obama is pledging government assistance to help train 100,000 science, technology, engineering, and math teachers by the end of the decade.
Obama also used the opportunity to formally announce he had named Intel Chief Executive Paul Otellini to the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, a new advisory board focused on finding ways to promote economic growth and hiring.
The panel will hold its inaugural meeting at the White House on Thursday under the chairmanship of General Electric Co Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt.
Otellini’s pick was the latest in a series of business-friendly appointments by Obama, who has shifted toward the political center since his Democrats were routed in the November congressional elections.
“I am thrilled for Paul and commend the president for making high-tech a cornerstone of his council,” Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, said in a statement responding to the choice.
Obama was wrapping up a West Coast visit that started in San Francisco on Thursday, where he met a group of technology industry leaders, including Apple Inc Chief Executive Steve Jobs.
It was part of his administration’s efforts to mend fences with the business community after a period of rancor stirred by last year’s congressional battles over a healthcare overhaul and Wall Street reform.
Editing by Eric Walsh