President Barack Obama said today that he will create new "global teams" led by U.S. ambassadors as a way to increase foreign investment in the U.S. economy, with the aim of producing more jobs for the middle class.
"America is open for business," Obama told 600-plus executives as he kicked off his first "investment summit" at a hotel in Washington, D.C.
Obama said he plans to expand his SelectUSA program, the first federal effort aimed at coordinating government efforts to get more foreign companies to spend money in the U.S.
"I'm here because I want your companies to know -- I want companies around the world to know -- that I believe there is no better place in the world to do business than the United States of America," Obama said.
He said he will ask ambassadors to expand the U.S. "economic mission" by adding foreign investment to their work portfolio. Administration officials said the effort will begin with 32 priority markets that represent more than 90 percent of the foreign investment in the U.S.
Obama told the sold-out crowd of 1,200, which included economic development officials from 47 states, that the recent government shutdown did nothing to inspire confidence.
And he said it's time for "getting beyond gridlock" and focus on producing more jobs.
"I assume if you ask any CEO here if shutting down the government makes them more confident about wanting to bring jobs to America the answer will probably be no," he said. "The notion of not paying our bills on time doesn’t inspire confidence. So it's time for Congress to focus on what the American people are focused on and what I'm focused on, which is creating good jobs that pay good wages and creating a good environment for investment."
But he told the executives that the U.S. still remains a land of opportunity.
"That is not a myth," he said.
Administration officials say the new effort will mark a major change, noting that the U.S. has never before led coordinated efforts to attract more foreign investment.
As part of the effort, for the first time, the federal government will have a single point of contact for foreign investors. Obama said that will make it easier for investors to tackle the bureaucracy and create jobs more quickly.
The SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit will conclude on Friday.