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White House Business Outreach: Entrepreneurs Talk Innovation

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As part of a continuing effort to strengthen ties between the White House and America's business community, administration officials wrapped up an eight-city whistle-stop tour on innovation Thursday afternoon, speaking with entrepreneurs on the Stanford University campus.

Administration officials from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Small Business Administration (SBA), National Economic Council (NEC) and the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) sat down with local entrepreneurs for three hours to discuss ways in which the administration might better support innovation and start-up businesses.

Sean Greene, a senior adviser for innovation at the SBA, told the Huff Post that there were several recurring themes heard at both the Stanford event and at others like it across the country. "Access to [funds], human capital, and the immigration issue has come up at almost every event," Greene said.

In addition to Stanford campus, other roundtables took place in Durham, Austin, Boston, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Boulder. Explaining the choice of locations, SBA spokesperson Hayley Meadvin said that the focus was on areas where businesses with "high growth potential" were clustered.

Simplifying tax reporting for small businesses and increased measures to assist start-ups through the regulatory process -- including streamlining and refining approval processes -- were concerns voiced at several events, according to Greene.

Entrepreneurs suggested possible solutions, including "startup visas for entrepreneurs who want to come to the U.S. to start businesses, debt deferment for start-up entrepreneurs and temporary visas for international students working towards advanced technology degrees, in the hopes of making it easier to stay," said Greene.

According to Christopher Lorenzana, a communications director for the SBA, entrepreneurs suggested innovations including tax breaks for angel investors (individuals who provide start-up capital in exchange for equity or convertible debt), and a national business plan competition.

Findings from the meetings will be compiled into a report, which will be sent to President Obama in the coming weeks, likely by June. In parallel with this, guidance will be released to federal agencies as part of a recent Executive Order to relieve the regulatory burdens on small businesses in the U.S .

The eight events were hosted by the Startup America Initiative, a public-private effort launched in January to accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship in the U.S., helmed by business leaders including AOL founder Steve Case and Carl Schramm, president of the Kauffman Foundation.

The effort comes on the eve of "Small Business Week," which begins on May 16 -- a designation President Obama announced Thursday to "honor and celebrate the individuals whose inspiration and efforts keep America strong."

On whole, these initiatives are part of a bid by the administration to strengthen the American economy -- and to counter Republican arguments that the White House has been "anti business."

Among other efforts, President Obama earlier this year installed Bill Daley -- a former chair of JP Morgan -- as chief of staff, in a move seen as a hat tip to the business community.

In February, the president spoke at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- the country's most powerful business lobby -- highlighting areas of agreement and seeking support for his administration's economic strategy.

Yet despite this outreach, recent policy positions have continued to pit the White House and chamber on opposing sides -- perhaps underscoring the importance of direct outreach to the nation's business community.