Obama Talks to Cleveland Small Businesses

President Obama and some of his top cabinet officials were at Cleveland State University on Tuesday. The forum featured more than 100 local companies, and was billed as a place for small business owners to speak their mind.

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“This is a working session, not a photo op,” Mr. Obama said.

He was flanked by big names from his administration including treasury secretary Tim Geithner and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and after the president’s opening remarks, he and his team broke into small groups to hear what Ohio businesses feel they need to succeed. And, one theme quickly emerged: they need cash.

In closing remarks to the forum, Mr. Obama said he heard their concerns: about capital, about job retraining, and tax breaks for early stage investing in new companies.

President Obama at Cleveland State

Ron Weinberg is a partner in a company that buys and operates small firms. He says he was impressed with the more than half dozen administration officials who came to the forum, but he says many business leaders felt job training should stem from the private sector.

“The initiatives for workforce development, rather than being pushed into the economy, should be pulled out of the private sector,” Weinberg said. “The private sector knows what they’re doing. If you accept they’re going to create 2/3 of jobs, you want to make sure the training and the initiatives match what’s really needed.”

The President had some nice words for this community. He said he came here because it’s a model for the nation.

“You’ve been working to reinvent the Rustbelt as the Tech Belt,” he said. “So you have fiber optic cables that now run beneath Cleveland streets, like the railroads and highways of the 21st century, drawing businesses to move downtown.”

But while the President spent much of his day listening to businesses in Cleveland, he did not mention the massive protests over union rights in many of the region’s state capitals.

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