In Austin, Obama plans to announce steps to boost economy

AUSTIN – President Obama will swoop into Texas on Thursday to kick off a series of visits across the country designed to showcase economic successes and pressure Congress to pass laws he believes would spark more growth elsewhere.

During his visit here to Austin, which the White House hails as a national model for tech innovation and manufacturing, Obama plans to announce two modest executive actions designed to help boost the national economy.

Obama will launch competitions for three new “Manufacturing Innovation Institutes,” which the president has previously outlined, including in his State of the Union in February. The institutes are partnerships among the government, businesses and universities and community colleges to invest in the development and growth of technologies that help U.S.-based manufacturers. Obama also will call on Congress to make a one-time $1 billion investment in creating 15 institutes nationwide, according to a White House statement.

In a second action, Obama will issue an executive order Thursday designed to make previously inaccessible data easily available to entrepreneurs, researchers and others trying to develop new products and services. The order will require that “newly released government data be made freely available in open, machine-readable formats, while appropriately safeguarding privacy, confidentiality and security,” according to the statement.

The White House statement, issued to reporters in advance of Obama’s visit here, said “these steps are not a substitute for the bold Congressional action we need to create jobs and grow the economy, but they’ll make a difference.”

The Austin trip is the first stop on Obama’s “Middle Class Jobs & Opportunity Tours,” which will take the president over the next few weeks to communities across the nation that he sees as models for economic growth.

With his momentum stalled on Capitol Hill, the president’s travel seems designed to help jump-start his second-term agenda and find new ways to pressure a divided Congress to back his economic proposals.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday that Obama “believes that in spite of the fact that Washington is, on occasion, throwing up obstacles to economic growth and job creation, that there are areas across the country where positive steps are being taken.”

Obama is planning a series of events here Thursday. He will deliver his first of two speeches at Manor New Tech High School, which teaches students real-world skills to fill tech jobs. The president then will meet with local middle-class residents as well as tech entrepreneurs. Later, Obama will tour Applied Materials, a growing tech company here, where he will deliver his second set of public remarks.

“It should be an incredibly exciting day and we’re looking forward to showcasing the innovative spirit of Austin as a model for the rest of the country,” Todd Park, the administration’s chief technology officer, said in a video released by the White House previewing the trip.

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Aaron Blake | May 8, 2013