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Obama pushes innovation in Silicon Valley

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses a Joint Session of Congress while delivering his State of the Union speech January 25, 2011 in Washington, D.C.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: You sort of have to wonder how meetings like the one the president's going to have tonight work. Does he say to one of his secretaries, "Hey, call Steve Jobs and maybe Eric Schmidt, and don't forget that Zuckerberg kid, and see what they're going for dinner Thursday?' Or does the high-tech lobby get its collective head together and make the invitation itself?

However it happens, the president's off to San Francisco. It's a listening tour, if you will. The president wants to hear ideas about how to rebuild the American economy for the information age. You know, the whole innovation and win the future thing.

Marketplace's Steve Henn reports.


Steve Henn: Here's who coming: Apple's Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, Google's Eric Schmidt and Larry Ellison from Oracle, among others. More than half a dozen billionaires will be there. And while it's fun to speculate about who sits next to whom or what might come out of Larry Ellison's legendary mouth, the White House would prefer it if our coverage focused on the economy.

White House press secretary Jay Carney says the president is:

Jay Carney: Very clear in his call to invest in new industries, to innovate and to focus on the education of our children -- precisely in order to grow the economy and create the jobs.

Judith Estrin is author of the book, "Closing the Innovation Gap," and has bent the president's ear on innovation policy.

Judith Estrin: The products that we see around us are built on research that was done 10 or 20 years ago.

She says U.S. companies are no longer making similar investments.

Estrin: The challenge for a corporation is that basic research benefits society, benefits industries, but usually does not have a direct benefit back to a specific corporation.

She says the government has a role to play. But there is not guarantee new technologies will create new jobs here.

In Santa Clara County -- where Google, Apple and Facebook are headquartered -- the unemployment rate is above 10 percent. While Apple employs just 30,000 people, the subcontractor which actually assembles its products, employs more than 1 million -- but they work in China.

In Silicon Valley, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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