"Small businesses like yours help drive America's economic growth," Obama told about 140 participants of the Winning the Future Forum for Small Business at Cleveland State University. "They're the cornerstones of America's progress, the idea that if you've got a dream and you've got the work ethic to see it through, you can succeed."
When small businesses do well, "America does well," Obama said.
In his opening remarks, Obama did not discuss the situations in Libya or other North African countries nor did he address a push to ratchet back collective bargaining rights by Ohio lawmakers, even though last week he criticized a similar move in Wisconsin.
He repeated what his administration has done to help small businesses succeed in the United States and help push the country along the road to recovery and global competitiveness. He also discussed ensuring "that government lives within its means, just like you do," including freezing non-security discretionary domestic spending for five years and freezing federal civilian salaries for two years.
But the United States also must invest in education, infrastructure and innovation that are "critical to our long-term success."
While big companies grab most of the attention in the U.S. economy, "it's small businesses like yours that will help drive America's economic growth and create two out of every three new jobs."
He said he his economic team wanted to hear from small-business owners directly to learn about their successes, failures, lessons learned and barriers to their expansion.
Obama participated in a few of the breakout sessions, along with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Energy Secretary Steve Chu, Economic Advisory Council Chairman Austan Goolsbee and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling.
During a breakout session on accessing capital and tax breaks led by Geithner, Obama said his and the treasury secretary's top priority when coming to Washington was to stabilize capital markets and ensure they were working for all businesses.