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Obama in Austin: 'Folks Around Here Are Doing Something Right'

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

President Barack Obama spent about six hours in Austin yesterday touring around the city on the first stop of what the White House is calling a “Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour.

After landing mid-day in Austin, the President headed to Manor New Technology high school. The school is what’s called a STEM academy – focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.

President Obama met with a few students, who showed off award-winning robotics and solar car projects. Then, he took the stage before about 400 students, teachers and supporters. He told them he wants to focus his efforts on creating middle class jobs. And since, he said, Austin’s done that successfully, he started his tour here.

“So folks around here are doing something right and I think the rest of the country can learn from what you’re doing because I’ve always believed the best ideas don’t usually don’t start in Washington. They trickle up to Washington. So I’ve come to listen and learn and highlight some of the good work that’s being done,"  Obama said.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry couldn’t have agreed more with the President’s assessment. The one-time hopeful to challenge Obama in the 2012 Election met the President as he exited Air Force One at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport with a handshake and smile. The Governor's Office then spent the day tweeting out statistics touting the state’s record of job creation.

As Obama talked to angel investors at Capital Factory, a tech startup incubator, he even used a line on job creation heavily used by Perry during his Presidential run.

“I’m a huge believer that the private sector is the driver for job creation and growth," Obama said. "I also think that the government can play a beneficial role in that process or it can impede in that process. And you know when you think about Austin, for example, well UT’s a public university. Making that investment is hugely important.”

UT's importance to Central Texas came up again at the end of the President’s visit as he gave a closing speech to workers at Applied Materials.

Earlier in the day, the White House had announced a new competition to win three bids for what officials are calling “manufacturing innovation institutes.” The Federal government will spend $200 million on the three winners. Obama seemed to be tempting Austin into applying.

“We are looking for businesses and universities that are willing to partner together to help their region, uh, help turn their region into global centers of high-tech jobs. Because we want the next revolution of manufacturing to be made in America," the President said.

But this first, or any subsequent tours, wasn't just about pep-rallies for entrepreneurs, innovators and educators. The White House is also hoping the President can rally support for his job creation policy initiatives, like a billion dollar expansion of those innovation institutes, in hopes of putting pressure on Congress to take action on them.

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
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