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Obama meets with top CEOs to urge more hiring, discuss 'our shared mission of building a strong economy'

December 15, 2010 |  8:40 am

Obama CEO meeting President Obama on Wednesday sat down with chief executives from major companies such as Boeing, Comcast, General Electric and Google for a lengthy "working meeting" to urge them to do more hiring to bring down unemployment and work with him to strengthen the economic recovery.

"I am looking forward to getting good ideas from them, but I am definitely going to talk to them about how we can get more hiring out there," Obama told reporters as he walked across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to attend the meeting at Blair House.

The meeting was expected to last about four hours and is part of a renewed push by the Obama administration to dispel criticism that it is anti-business. That initiative has included business-friendly moves in recent weeks, such as completing a trade pact with South Korea and making a deal to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and include other tax breaks helpful to U.S. companies.

The Senate was expected to pass the tax-cut deal Wednesday, which Obama said "is an essential ingredient in spurring economic growth over the short run."

Waiting for him at Blair House were 20 chief executives from a wide range of businesses. Among them were strong Obama supporters such as Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr and Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker. Other attendees include John Chambers from Cisco, Jeffrey Immelt from GE, Ellen Kullman from DuPont, James McNerney from Boeing, Indra Nooyi from PepsiCo, Paul Otellini from Intel, Kenneth Chenault from American Express and Brian Roberts from Comcast.

Earlier Wednesday, Obama said the meeting was "one of many discussions we'll be having in the months ahead to find new ways to spur hiring, put Americans back to work and move our economy forward."

The White House said Obama will meet with labor leaders later this week. And Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, who attended Wednesday's CEO meeting, planned to meet Wednesday night with leaders of labor, progressive and minority organizations to discuss the economy, taxes, the budget deficit and job creation, the Treasury said.

Obama on Wednesday touted the South Korea agreement and the tax-cut deal as good for the economy and repeated his belief that government is not "the primary engine of America's economic success.... It's the ingenuity of America's entrepreneurs."

Obama continued:

This morning I hope to elicit ideas from these business leaders that will help us not only climb out of recession but seize the promise of this moment -- ideas about tax reform, ideas about a balanced approach to regulation that will promote rather than undermine growth, ideas that will help encourage businesses to invest in America and American jobs at a time when they're holding nearly $2 trillion on their books. I want to discuss our shared mission of building a strong economy for the long run.

Obama might find a receptive audience in his push for more hiring.

With the economy improving, executives at large companies were more optimistic about increasing their payrolls over the next six months, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Business Roundtable. In the latest results from its 2010 CEO survey, 59% of the chief executives said they expect their companies to increase U.S. capital spending over the next six months, up from 49% in the third quarter, and 45% expect to increase their domestic hiring, up from 31%.

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Photo: President Obama walks to meeting with business leaders. Credit: European Pressphoto Agency