Obama Talks Tech Jobs, Pacific Rim Trade Deal at U.S. Conference of Mayors Meeting

In a speech at the 83rd annual meeting, President Obama voiced his calls to action about his economic and tech initiatives.

by / June 22, 2015
President Obama calls for municipal from mayors to support White House tech and economic policy initiatives at the 83rd Annual U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco on June 19. U.S. Conference of Mayors

SAN FRANCISCO — In his remarks to more than 300 mayors on June 19, President Obama called for political support of two tech initiatives: a White House-led tech training program and his Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal with Asia.

Obama voiced his calls to action at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting held in San Francisco from June 19-22. While much of his talk was rightfully focused on the tragic shooting in Charleston, N.C., the president also was adamant about his economic and tech initiatives.

“Three months ago, I launched an initiative called TechHire to help train workers for the high-skill, high-wage jobs of tomorrow,” Obama said. “Twenty-one communities have signed up for TechHire so far, and we’re looking to double that number.”

The president did not give a time frame for the goal, but based on the program’s current growth — of 21 jurisdictions in three months — it’s conceivable that the White House could achieve that mark by year's end.

Built as an economic driver, TechHire aims to increase U.S. high-wage tech jobs through a multisector collaborative effort. To this end, the U.S. Department of Labor has committed $100 million in grants to support innovative tech education through universities and intensive coding bootcamps, and more than 300 private-sector companies have promised training resources and to hire competent applicants without traditional educations.

New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia represent a few of the larger participants.

Next, Obama highlighted two additional economic- and tech-related programs that attending mayors could consider.

The first was Start Up in a Day, an initiative announced jointly by the president and the Small Business Administration on June 11, that will offer 25 cities a grant of $50,000 each to create an online solution to allow entrepreneurs to register businesses within 24 hours — with a $250,000 grant going to a city that can provide a replicable, open source solution. The second program is the U.S. Department of Energy initiative to develop high-tech manufacturing hubs in cities — such as in Youngstown, Ohio, where metallic 3-D printing research and training is underway.

“We’re working with cities to create a network of high-tech manufacturing hubs to keep America at the forefront of innovation,” Obama said.

During his weekly White House address, the president discussed the bill that would help him secure a massive free trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim nations — and also hinted at it during his talk at the conference. Obama was resolute that despite its failure to draw support from fellow House Democrats — and even political allies like Hilary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi — the trade deal would pass.

“We’ve got to keep pushing to grow our economy so that more Americans who work hard feel like their hard work is paying off — which is why I’m working with Congress to pass new 21st-century trade agreements with higher standards and tougher protections than past agreements,” Obama said.

According to an analysis by The New York Times, Obama’s trade pact is connected to the tech industry through data and service agreements. If formalized, countries would agree not to block cross-border transfers of Internet data by withdrawing a requirement for tech companies to have servers physically located in the country —  which would be a major win for U.S.-based cloud companies. Likewise, the agreement would eliminate nationality requirements for investment and use of education, legal, finance, engineering, and IT services and products — all industries where the U.S. excels.

Jason Shueh former staff writer

Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.