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Racine Leaders Discuss the Economy with White House

The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs hosted the first in series of Virtual Town Halls with Mayor John Dickert and business and community leaders from Racine, Wisconsin.

One year ago, President Obama traveled to Racine, Wisconsin to hold a town hall on the economy. During the town hall, the President talked about extending unemployment benefits and helping small business owners get the loans they need to keep their doors open and hire more workers.  He listened to the people of Racine as they requested help in weathering the mortgage crisis, asked what the White House could do to help military families, and strongly recommended that he try O&H Kringle and the Johnsonville bratwurst while he was in town.

On Wednesday, thanks to video-conferencing technology, we had the chance to check back in with Racine during the White House Intergovernmental Affairs team's first Virtual Town Hall.  Racine Mayor John Dickert kicked off our discussion by promising that Racine’s famous Kringles are 100% fat free and recalling the President’s significant Kringle purchase during last year’s visit.  But the real goal of the teleconference was to hear from Mayor John Dickert and Racine business and community leaders on the state of the Racine economy and better understand how businesses there are faring in the recovery.

I was joined by Ron Bloom, Assistant to the President for Manufacturing Policy; Michael Strautmanis, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement; and Cecilia Muñoz, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs.  Ron Bloom started the discussion by stressing the President’s commitment to manufacturing.  He explained the ideas behind the President’s new Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. Michael Strautmanis told the group about the work being done by the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and highlighted Startup America, the White House initiative to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the nation.

But most importantly, we heard from Mayor Dickert and community leaders representing all types of businesses from major manufacturing companies to small family-owned stores.  We heard about innovative technologies, including one company’s process that allows them to bend stone, and heard frustrations about the difficulty accessing capital for small businesses.  They also gave us ideas on what additional actions the Administration can take to help businesses, from GSA procurement reform to green product innovation and more.

This opportunity with Racine was the first in a series of Virtual Town Halls we will be hosting with communities across the nation to hear directly from community leaders on the successes they have had and challenges they still face. We look forward to meeting more great Americans and hearing their ideas on how to improve their community and the country.

David Agnew is the Deputy Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs