February 22nd, 2011
01:15 PM ET
CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN) - The president traveled to northeast Ohio today to hold a small business forum with members of his Cabinet, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and economic advisors Austan Goolsbee and Gene Sperling.
"How can America help you succeed, so you can help America succeed?" President Obama asked a roomful of about 150 Cleveland small business owners, evoking JFK and tweaking the famous "ask not what your country can do for you" line. On the campus of Cleveland State University, the president and his cabinet are giving a high level platform to local business leaders. "We are going to do something a little different today. I did not come to Cleveland to talk; instead I came here to listen," he began his remarks.
The president spoke for just about seven minutes and explained to the crowd that this was no stunt. While the press was invited to cover the opening and closing remarks, most of the five sessions today are behind closed doors. "This is a working session, not a photo-op, so I expect all of you will express your opinions clearly," he said. "We want your stories, your successes, your failures, what barriers you're seeing out there to expand, what you've learned along the way. What would make it easier for you to grow? What would make it easier for you to create new jobs?"
Before the doors were closed to the press, the president was sure to make a quick plug for one of the businesses in the audience. "We look for entrepreneurs here in Northeast Ohio who live to out-hustle, to out-innovate everybody else, in manufacturing and construction, in clean energy and biotech, in retail and restaurants – including the owners of Bubba's Bar-B-Q, who I imagine will be one of the more popular participants today," he joked.
No word on if the president was able to sample the small business' product.