Obama speech: innovation key to future US jobs

Amid a blitz of public appearances, Obama touts government initiatives in education and energy as part of an economic strategy.

Charles Dharapak/AP
President Barack Obama boards Air Force One at Albany International Airport after he spoke about the economy at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y., Monday.

Government has an important role to play in fostering innovations that will be the foundation of the future US economy, said President Obama Monday in a speech at an upstate New York community college.

Touting White House initiatives in education, energy, and healthcare technology, Mr. Obama said this was an area in which his administration had struck a proper balance.

“If government does its modest part, there is no stopping the most powerful and generative economic force the world has ever known: the American people,” said Obama at his Hudson Valley Community College appearance.

Obama’s innovation speech comes at a time when he has become a ubiquitous presence on the nation’s airwaves. On Sunday, the president gave five back-to-back television interviews, many focusing on healthcare reform. Later on Monday, he is scheduled to tape an appearance on David Letterman’s “Late Show.”

The rest of the week, Obama will be addressing the UN and attending in Pittsburgh a meeting of the leaders of nations with advanced economies.

In August, it was the town-hall foes of healthcare reform who framed the debate on the issue. The administration appears to have learned its lesson from that experience, and September has become the month of presidential push-back.

One goal: US to have most college graduates

Obama’s speech Monday was mostly an effort to tie together disparate administration efforts as a single strategy on innovation.

He repeated his long-held goal that by 2020 American will once again have the highest percentage of college graduates in the world.

To reach that goal, his administration had pushed for an increase in Pell Grants and created a simplified $2,500 tax credit for college tuition, he said.

As to innovation, the White House judges that some $100 billion of the stimulus bill can be counted as investment in science, technology, and infrastructure projects that will help create the tech jobs of the future.

“In no area will innovation be more important than in the development of new ways to produce, use, and save energy,” said Obama.

Obama also reiterated his goal that the US should invest money equal to three percent of GDP in basic research.

While research does not always have immediate payoffs, it is vital to the economy’s long-term health, he said.

“It was basic research in the photoelectric effect that would eventually lead to solar panels,” Obama told the Hudson Valley Community College crowd.

How innovation saved Maine’s boat builders

A White House National Economic Council (NEC) report on US innovation strategy, released along with the president’s address, cited boat builders along Maine’s eastern coast as an example where innovation-led transformation can occur on a local scale.

Maine’s boat builders have enthusiastically adopted advanced composite materials technologies, ensuring continuation of the state’s 400-year tradition of maritime construction, according to the White House.

Today the state produces everything from racing yachts to military vessels.

“Wages in Maine’s boat building industry have risen 19 percent in real terms over the last decade while employment has risen 12 percent,” said the NEC report.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.