Глава IBM Самюел Палмісано зустрівся з президентом США Бараком Обамою

Tech Industry CEOs Back Obama's Rescue Package

Corporate America Sees Benefit of Massive Federal Spending to Help Turn Around Slumping Sales, Combat Huge Job Losses

Керівники технологічної індустрії підтримують план порятунку, внесений Обамою

President Barack Obama won a well-timed plug for his economic-rescue plan from the U.S. high-tech industry, a group he nurtured heavily during the campaign.

Mr. Obama's gathering with 13 chief executives at the White House Wednesday -- the first corporate sit-down of his presidency -- showed how much the two sides now need one another's support. Ten of the 13 executives run companies that would broadly be considered from the technology industry.

Barack Obama discussed his stimulus plan with CEOs at the White House Wednesday. JetBlue's David Barger, third from left, was among 13 invited.

Mr. Obama is lobbying heavily for his $819 billion package of government spending and tax cuts in the face of sharp criticism from congressional Republicans, and even some Democrats, that the plan is too costly. Corporate America, meanwhile, is desperate to turn around slumping sales with the help of a burst of spending from the federal government.

"I'd say that the message has to be that the situation is dire," said David Cote, chief executive of Honeywell Inc., who described the prevailing emotion as one of "incredible fear." Joining him were the heads of International Business Machines Inc., Xerox Corp., Motorola Inc., Corning Inc. and Eastman Kodak Co., among others.

Administration officials said the White House meeting came together after dozens of technology CEOs last week lent their support to the stimulus package in a letter to Congress. The group was then broadened to include the heads of JetBlue Airways Corp., Aetna Inc. and BET Holdings Inc. Notable by their absence were any representatives of the hard-hit retail, banking or automotive sectors.

Still, nearly all of the companies invited to the White House session have been hurt by the sinking economy. Xerox's fourth-quarter revenue fell 11%, and it barely broke even. Corning Tuesday announced plans to cut its work force by 13% this year. Memory-chip maker Micron Technology Inc. reported a $706 million quarterly loss in December.

Most of the attendees also stand to benefit from the stimulus package, which emphasizes energy, infrastructure and technology projects meant to create or save millions of jobs.

IBM, for example, could benefit from Mr. Obama's proposal to spend $9 billion on high-speed Internet projects. IBM CEO Samuel J. Palmisano said a company-commissioned study found that a $30 billion investment in high-tech infrastructure could create more than 900,000 jobs. IBM's services unit would presumably benefit from all these initiatives, but the analysis said that most of the jobs would go to small businesses.

Aetna CEO Ron Williams said he pushed for a $20 billion investment in health-care information technology, which could help connect doctors and hospitals with electronic medical records. Mr. Williams said government will also have to work closely with the private sector to ensure that providers use the new tools. "The technology alone is not enough," he said.

Many of the CEOs said they were pleased that measures they had long championed were now part of the stimulus package. Eric Schmidt of Google Inc. said in an interview that he appreciated the emphasis on renewable-energy technology and the deployment of broadband services. "All of that is a real positive for [Google]," he said. "The things that we asked for are in there."

For his first meeting with CEOs as president, Mr. Obama reached out to some longstanding friends and supporters. Mr. Schmidt, seated beside the president, campaigned for Mr. Obama and advised him informally during the campaign.

Xerox's Anne Mulcahy joined Mr. Obama's economic-advisory team during the transition. Mr. Williams, of Aetna, was one of a coterie of business leaders who lunched with Mr. Obama at the Fairmont Chicago Hotel in June.

Mr. Schmidt described the president's mood Wednesday as sober and said he asked for the business leaders' help to get the stimulus bill passed. "Businesses are very concerned about what is going on," said Mr. Schmidt. "There is not a sense that business is getting better. There were people who said things were getting worse."

—William M. Bulkeley, Jessica E. Vascellaro and Vanessa Fuhrmans contributed to this article.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123318835721826641.html