Obama talks jobs, technology at Austin tech firm

President Barack Obama said the rest of the country should follow Austin's example when it comes to the city's focus on technology and job creation.

Obama spoke May 9 to local government leaders and employees at the Austin facility of Applied Materials Inc., a technology firm that develops systems to help build better smartphones, TVs and solar panels.

"We're poised for a time of progress if we're willing to seize it," he said.

While U.S. manufacturers have added about 500,000 new manufacturing jobs during the past three years, Obama said he plans to focus on creating more centers of high-tech manufacturing in coming years.

In 2012, a manufacturing innovation institute opened in Youngstown, Ohio, to develop technology and train workers to use 3-D printing techniques. The president said that during his State of the Union address, he encouraged Congress to set up similar hubs across the country.

"Today, we're launching a competition for those hubs," he said. "We are looking for businesses and universities that are willing to partner together to ... help turn their region into global centers of high-tech jobs, because we want the next revolution in manufacturing to be 'Made in America.'"

Michael R. Splinter, Applied Materials CEO and chairman of the board of directors, said that while the president could have spoken at the company's facilities in Silicon Valley, Calif. or in Montana, he chose Austin.

"Arguably, there's not a semiconductor part or computer chip that's made in the world that isn't touched by one of the systems that have been made here in Austin, Texas," Splinter told his employees. "I think the president's visit here today is really a testament to the difference that all of you are making each and every day to the economy of the world, to the economy of the United States and certainly to the competitiveness of Applied Materials."

Earlier in the day, Obama traveled to Capital Factory, a local community of technology startups. He met with representatives from a startup called StormPulse, which uses government data on weather to help businesses anticipate disruptions in service.

The federal government plans to make more government data available to the public, Obama said, adding that this will help launch more new businesses. He said the government should play a role in supporting business infrastructure, basic research and ensuring fair taxes for budget stability.

He told Applied Materials employees they are not alone in their quest to push the limits of imagination.

Equipping all children with a strong education, including college and vocational training, he said, will eventually boost the U.S. economy. Earlier in the day, the president also spoke to students at Manor New Tech High School, and said students there are learning important skills in subjects including math, science and technology that companies like Applied Materials are looking for today.

"Somewhere over at the Capital Factory, there's an entrepreneur mapping out a new product on a whiteboard that may be the next big thing. Somewhere over at Manor New Tech High School, there's a kid scribbling down an idea for a new invention that one day may turn into an entirely new industry. That's America," he said.

After Obama's remarks, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said he was honored to host the president and was glad the president came to discuss the job programs he plans to implement.

"I'm glad that he chose Austin as the place to kick it off, and I think we deserve it," Leffingwell said. "Austin has done better than any other city in this country with the economy over the last few very difficult years, and I think it's nice to be recognized for that."

Austin City Manager Marc Ott said he thought the president's message was that Austin serves as an example to the rest of the country, and the world, in terms of creativity and job growth.

"I think it's significant that he came to Austin to talk about innovation and creativity, job generation and economic development," he said. "I think it says that Austin serves as one of the best examples of where that's occurring in the best possible way."


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