Image: Barack Obama
Carolyn Kaster  /  AP
President Barack Obama looks through a transmission electron microscope as he tours a semiconductor manufacturing facility at the Intel in Hillsboro, Ore.
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updated 2/18/2011 6:37:58 PM ET 2011-02-18T23:37:58

President Barack Obama says the U.S. must invest in research and development, science, and especially education — or risk seeing the technological breakthroughs of the future happen in some other country.

Obama says he wants to focus "like a laser" on improving education. He said the quality of a nation's education is one of the biggest predictors of a nation's success.

The president spoke at an Intel Corp. semiconductor manufacturing facility in Hillsboro, Oregon on Friday during a West Coast swing designed to highlight his vision of making the U.S. more competitive globally. Before the visit, the White House announced that Obama had picked Intel CEO Paul Otellini, a sometime critic, to serve on a presidential competitiveness council.

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His stop Friday at Intel follows after a private dinner in San Francisco with the leaders of Facebook, Apple and other innovators.

Trying to draw attention to the need for high-tech jobs, Obama tourd Intel's semiconductor manufacturing facility with Intel CEO Paul Otellini. Before the visit, the White House announced that Obama has picked Otellini to serve on the presidential council charged with finding new ways to promote economic growth and bring jobs to the United States.

Otellini was among 20 business CEOs who met privately with Obama in December. Otellini has been a critic of Obama administration policies, saying they have created too much uncertainty for business. He told CNN in September that the policies had not resulted in either job growth of increased consumer confidence.

In explaining Obama's choice of the Intel leader, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama was not seeking to "collect people who agree with him on every issue, every policy decision made, but to create an environment, a council, where ideas, good ideas, can be generated."

Obama created the council last month and named General Electric Co. chief executive Jeffrey Immelt as chairman.

Besides touring the semiconductor facility, Obama was to learn about programs the company has to encourage studies in science, technology, engineering and math, and get people the skills they need to compete for new high-tech jobs.

Intel last year announced a 10-year, $200 million commitment to promote math and science education. It also is one of four companies that are working to help meet Obama's goal of getting the U.S. to first place in science and math education in a decade.

With unemployment holding at 9 percent and millions out of work, a seal of approval from Silicon Valley's leading innovators could bolster Obama's sales pitch. He is pushing for new spending on education, high-speed rail, faster Internet service and other programs.

At the Thursday dinner, Obama was joined by Eric Schmidt of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Steve Jobs of Apple, who is on his third medical leave as concern about his health mounts. Also present were the chief executives of Yahoo!, Oracle, NetFlix and Twitter, and the president of Stanford University.

Pushing back on Obama's agenda, Republicans say government spending without restraint is hindering job creation. They want to slash the budget. On Capitol Hill, the Republican-controlled House neared a vote on whether to cut $61 billion from government spending this year.

Oregon is a solidly Democratic state. Its governor and two senators are Democrats and Obama won the state handily in 2008.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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