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Obama keeps focus on education, technology

From NBC's Athena Jones
President Obama today took his case for investing in education and innovation out west, where he toured Intel's semiconductor manufacturing facility and met with student scientists.

He also used the opportunity to announce that Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini would join his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness -- which is being headed by another prominent CEO, General Electric's Jeff Immelt. The council is set to meet for the first time at the White House on Thursday, Feb. 24.

Even as he tries to convince the American public that he is serious about reining in government spending to help bring down a massive deficit, Obama has consistently argued that the country must also invest in areas that can help lay the foundation for long-term growth, from infrastructure to research and development.

"If we want the next technological breakthrough that leads to the next Intel to happen here in the United States -- not in China, not in Germany -- but here in the United States, then we have to invest in America's research and technology" he said. "If we want companies like yours to be able to move goods and information quickly and cheaply, we've gotta invest in communication and transportation networks like new roads and bridges, high speed rail, high speed Internet."

Republicans say "investment" is just code for more spending, and that the country's massive deficit requires deep cuts not just in the budget for Fiscal Year 2012, which doesn't start until October, but for the remainder of this year. House Speaker John Boehner has vowed that the Republican-controlled House will not to approve even a temporary spending bill that does not include big cuts.

Obama has also stressed the need to encourage more students to study math, science, engineering and technology and his budget includes a goal to use $100 million to prepare 100,000 instructors in these subjects over the next decade and to recruit 10,000 such teachers in the next two years. During his trip to Intel's Hillsboro, OR plant today, he chatted with student finalists in the company's Science Talent Search competition, before delivering his remarks.

"We can't win the future if we lose the race to educate our children," Obama said. "In today's economy, the quality of nation's education is one of the biggest predictors of a nation's success. It is what will determine whether the American Dream survives."

The president hailed Intel as a positive example of a company that understands the importance of having a pipeline of skilled workers, noting that Intel had invested some $50 million in Oregon schools and often hired them to fulfill hi-tech jobs.

"You're not just a good corporate role model, you're a corporation who understands that investing in education is also a good business," he said. "It's good for the bottom line."

The president was in the San Francisco Bay area Thursday night to meet with a dozen technology business leaders -- including the founder of social media juggernaut Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg; Yahoo! President and CEO Carol Bartz; ailing Apple Chairman and CEO Steve Jobs; Google Chairman; and CEO Eric Schmidt and Oracle Co-Founder and CEO Larry Ellison -- to talk about ways to promote innovation and private sector job growth.