Obama, with much of his Cabinet in tow, visited Ohio on Tuesday to try to reach out to U.S. entrepreneurs amid complaints from some small business owners that his policies inhibit growth.
We're here to hear from you directly. We want your stories, your successes, your failures, what barriers you are seeing out there to expand, he told a small business forum.
Obama has sought to mend fences with the business community after relations became strained over business complaints about Obama's regulatory agenda and healthcare reform law.
White House officials billed the trip as a chance to exchange ideas with the business community and listen to opinions on how the administration can spur job creation.
It is small businesses like yours that help drive America's economic growth and create two out of every three new jobs, Obama said.
The Ohio trip is the kick-off to a series of round-table meetings Obama and senior officials in his administration will be holding with business people throughout the country.
The administration's Startup America tour will include stops in Boston; Atlanta; Pittsburgh; Minneapolis; Silicon Valley; Austin, Texas; Boulder, Colorado and Durham, North Carolina.
Joined by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and other Cabinet secretaries, Obama met in Cleveland with local small business owners.
Ohio suffered heavy job losses during the recession and could be critical to Obama's political fortunes in next year's presidential election.
The visit was Obama's first to the state since before the congressional elections last November in which Republicans took power in the U.S. House of Representatives and boosted their numbers in the Senate.
The Democratic president won Ohio in 2008 when he ran against Republican John McCain but its voters are closely divided between Democrats and Republicans.
The U.S. unemployment rate was 9 percent in January. In Ohio, it was 9.6 percent in December, the latest month for which statistics were available.
Obama's small business forum will include a series of sessions hosted by the various Cabinet secretaries on specific topics.
Geithner will host a session on access to capital, while Karen Mills, head of the Small Business Administration, will lead one on entrepreneurship.
Chu will discuss clean energy with the business owners, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke will focus on exports and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis will lead a session on workforce development.
When our small businesses do well, then America does well, Obama said.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)