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Obama to Silicon Valley to talk tech initiatives

By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 17, 2011; 2:48 PM

President Obama will fly to San Francisco on Thursday night to meet with a group of tech chief executives - including Apple's Steve Jobs and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg -- in what should be one of the more friendly of his recent outreach sessions with business leaders.

The event is being held at a private home and is closed to both the press and public.

Although some in the business world, such as the Chamber of Commerce, have long had tense relationships with Obama, the president has been popular in Silicon Valley.

He attended a major fundraiser last October at the home of Google executive Marissa Mayer and met with Jobs on that same swing. Schmidt campaigned for Obama in 2008 and has served as an informal adviser on economic issues since then.

White House officials said Thursday night's meeting is mainly about Obama's new innovation initiatives. Obama has promised to fund tax credits for research and development; to reform the bogged-down patent system; and to blanket the country with high-speed wireless Internet connections.

The efforts - including $18 billion for his wireless broadband plan alone - would create what he describes as a new infrastructure for the nation to better compete against other tech-geared nations.

The initiatives have been panned by Republican lawmakers as overspending by the federal government. But the high-tech industry has long argued for those programs and funding in order to stay ahead of nations such as China, India and South Korea, which have emerged as creators of the latest smartphones and Internet services.

Obama will stay in the West Coast on Friday, touring and then giving a speech at an Intel semiconductor manufacturing facility in Hillsboro, Ore.

Along with Jobs and Zuckerberg, attendees at the meeting include:

John Doerr, partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; Carol Bartz, president and CEO, Yahoo!; John Chambers, CEO and chairman, Cisco Systems; Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter; Larry Ellison, Co-Founder and CEO, Oracle; Reed Hastings, CEO, NetFlix; John Hennessy, president, Stanford University; Art Levinson, chairman and former CEO, Genentech; Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO, Google; and Steve Westly, managing partner and founder, The Westly Group.

Obama today

Before he leaves for his West Coast trip, the president will sign a bill naming a new federal courthouse in Yuma, Ariz., after Judge John M. Roll, who was killed last month in the shooting that also injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

Obama also will meet with a group of members of Congress of both parties to talk about education reform, and will hold a separate session with House Democratic leaders to discuss the budget and other issues.

Staff writer Cecilia Kang contributed to this report.

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