January 29, 2011 / 7:20 PM / 9 years ago

Obama touts clean energy firm as way of future

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Saturday touted gains made by a Wisconsin renewable energy firm as the kind of innovation that will bolster the United States.

President Barack Obama speaks to the Families USA's 16th annual Health Action Conference at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill in Washington January 28, 2011. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Obama, in his weekly address on the White House website, appeared in a video from the Orion Energy Systems factory in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, a site he visited earlier this week.

He returned to the theme of driving American innovation through a mix of government action and private initiative that he outlined in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday.

“I’m here because this business and others like it are showing us the way forward,” Obama said in the weekly address.

Obama said in the coming days he will highlight “innovators across America” who are relying on new technology to create jobs, and allow U.S. firms to beat competitors.

“We’ll win the future by being the best place on Earth to do business. That is what we are called to do at this moment. And in my State of the Union, I talked about how we get there,” he said.

To spark innovation, the United States will need to invest in education, infrastructure and online networks, Obama said. He also advocated for tax breaks for company research and the need to set a goal for the United States to obtain 80 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

Orion relied on a small business loan and clean energy incentives to open its factory in a Manitowoc facility vacated by another local employer years ago, Obama said.

The factory now employs 250 workers who build clean energy systems with solar power and other sustainable technology.

Obama, a Democrat, has shown a more business-friendly approach aimed at moving to the political center, since he saw Republicans gain control of the U.S. House in the November mid-term elections.

In the Republican response, newly-elected Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson said he feared that Obama’s plans for more U.S. investment would lead to more government control.

“Big government is blocking job creation not helping it,” said Johnson, a businessman before running for the Senate. “The president often speaks about making investments in our economy ... Unfortunately I am afraid he means more government spending and more government control.”

Johnson challenged Obama to present Congress with a “serious” plan to reduce the ballooning U.S. budget deficit.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Greg McCune

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