U.S. is "open for business," Obama tells foreign investors

President Obama told a group of group of investors and business leaders that "America is open for business" with the expansion of a federal program designed to attract foreign investment in U.S. companies.

"I'm here because I want your companies to know -- I want companies around the world to know -- that I believe there is no better place in the world to do business than the United States of America," Mr. Obama said.

The announcement, at the first-ever SelectUSA Investment Summit, marks the beginning of a coordinated federal effort to attract foreign investment, which until now had been the responsibility of cities and states. Two years ago, the Commerce Department launched SelectUSA, a program to provide better information on federal programs and services available to businesses operating in the United States. Now, the administration is stepping up their efforts.

The expanded efforts consist of four components: formally tasking U.S. ambassadors with attracting new investments from around the world, having high-level U.S. officials make the case for investing in the U.S., offering companies doing business in America for the first time a single point of contact at the federal level to help cut through red tape, and helping the cities and states to step up their efforts at attracting businesses.

"Ultimately, I believe that will translate into more good middle-class jobs for America, my number-one priority," the president said.

He will also be asking Congress to fully fund the parts of the program that require spending. "Making America even more attractive to investment should be something that everyone can agree on," Mr. Obama said.

And he made the case that there should be no more government shutdowns in order to avoid scaring off CEOs looking to invest in the U.S. He said politicians should work on "getting beyond the gridlock and some of the manufactured crises we see coming out of Washington."

"I assume if you ask any CEO here if shutting down the government makes them more confident about wanting to bring more jobs to America, the answer would probably be no," he said.

There were also a few other political appeals for Congress: invest in research and development, education and infrastructure, and pass an immigration reform bill this year - something that looks increasingly unlikely from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.