Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg, and Google Inc. Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt are among the technology industry executives President Barack Obama will meet with today in the San Francisco area, according to a person familiar with the private session.
The president will discuss the U.S. economy and job creation with the executives as he promotes the $3.7 trillion budget he released this week that aims to keep up government funding for education and research.
The White House hasn’t released the names of those who will attend. The person familiar with the meeting spoke on condition of anonymity because the details haven’t been made public.
General Electric Co. CEO Jeffrey Immelt, who Obama picked to lead a White House council on competitiveness, won’t be at the dinner, according to the person, who earlier said the GE executive was to be among those in attendance.
“The focus of the discussion is innovation and job creation,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said yesterday. The executives attending “know a lot about private sector job growth,” he said.
“All the smart graduates today want to go to Google and Facebook instead of Wall Street,” said Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who co-founded a company that became Nextel Corp., now Sprint Nextel Corp. “Without innovation and a growing economy out in” Silicon Valley, “we’re not going to be competitive,” he said.
Warner, who met Zuckerberg on Jan. 19 at Facebook’s Palo Alto, California, headquarters to discuss innovation and tax policy, said in an interview that the Internet and social networking have been one of the rare areas of growth in the U.S. economy during a decade without “a massive amount of innovation.”
Along with proposals to improve U.S. public education, Obama’s budget includes $18 billion to build up wireless networks for emergency workers, expand access to high-speed wireless service and supplement communications research.
The initiative fleshes out a pledge he made in the State of the Union address last month to make wireless high-speed Internet, or broadband, available to 98 percent of Americans within five years as a way to accelerate economic growth and job creation.
In that address, Obama cited technology companies as the heirs to the industries that made the U.S. the world’s biggest economy.
“We’re the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook,” he said. “In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It is how we make our living.”
Warner said the executives will likely ask Obama’s help in improving the business climate in the U.S. That would include lowering corporate taxes, shortening the patent approval process, helping new businesses get the capital they need to launch and expand, and shortening the Food and Drug Administration approval process, he said.
Tomorrow, Obama plans to carry his message of increased investments in education and innovation during a visit to Intel Corp.’s Hillsboro, Oregon campus, where he will tour the company’s semiconductor manufacturing facility with Intel Chief Executive Officer Paul Otellini.
Leave of Absence
Jobs announced a leave of absence from the most valuable technology company on Jan. 17, the third time the Apple co- founder has taken time away from the company since 2004 to deal with health problems. While Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook has assumed control of day-to-day operations, Apple’s board hasn’t said who will take over for Jobs if he can’t return. Apple is the maker of the iPhone and iPad devices and Macintosh personal computers.
Obama is meeting with executives from growing companies as he tries to make the point that innovation could help lower the nation’s 9 percent unemployment rate. Not only are the companies hiring, they can help people find jobs by helping to connect job seekers with employers, said Elizabeth Shaw, an analyst at Forrester Research, a technology and market research group.
“Everybody can identify with Facebook and Twitter, it is beyond buzzword at this point, everybody’s talking about it, every company’s trying to figure out how to get on it, how to reach their customers on it,” she said in an interview.
Facebook, the world’s most-used social networking service, is hiring as it attracts more users and advertising revenue. It has grown to more than 2,000 employees from about 1,000 in August 2009, according to its website.
The company has more than 500 million users --compared with about 250 million in July 2009. Facebook, which isn’t publicly traded and doesn’t disclose financial information, may have more than doubled its revenue to about $2 billion last year, three people familiar with the matter said in December.
Google, which had 24,400 people at the end of 2010, hired more than 4,500 last year, making that year second only to 2007, when the company added more than 6,000. Google Inc., based in Mountain View, California, is fending off competition from Facebook which surpassed it as the most-visited website in the U.S. in 2010, according to New York-based Internet tracker Experian Hitwise.
“Silicon Valley is a symbol of our competitive advantage in technology,” said Charlene Li, author of “Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead.” “A visit to Silicon Valley by any president is to focus on one of the core competitive advantages that the United States has: the fact that we are leaders.”
Social-networking companies, specifically Facebook, “do not stand still,” Li said, and in that way they provide an example to other companies and entrepreneurs. By meeting with technology executives, Obama is making the case that “change is hard but if we’re going to be successful look at these technology companies and how they embrace change,” he said.
Obama used social-networking more than any other candidate before him during his 2008 presidential campaign. One purpose of this trip could be to reinforce the message that “he does have a pulse, he’s not out of touch with things,” Shaw said. The White House uses Twitter, the White House blog, and Facebook to get the administration’s message out to a larger group.
Employees in the high-tech industry gave $8.5 million to Obama’s 2008 campaign, compared with $1.5 million for Republican nominee John McCain, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group. No 2008 candidate received more money than Obama from industry employees.
Microsoft Corp. employees and their families gave Obama $833,617 for his presidential campaign, his second biggest source of corporate cash next to Goldman Sachs Group employees, who gave $994,795. Google Inc. employees and their families were third, with $803,436 in donations.
Facebook, along with Google Inc. and Twitter Inc., also increasingly figures in U.S. foreign policy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed in remarks Feb. 15 that the U.S. will step up support for global Internet freedom, as citizens using social networking sites and other areas of the Internet to organize demonstrations spreading across the Mideast and North Africa.
--With assistance from Julianna Goldman in Washington. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Don Frederick
To contact the reporters on this story: Kate Andersen Brower in Washington at Kandersen7@bloomberg.net
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