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AOL’s Case to Lead White House Entrepreneurs’ Effort

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AOL Co-founder Steve Case
AOL co-founder Steve Case. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg

Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- AOL Inc. co-founder Steve Case will lead a White House campaign seeking to increase private-sector investments in startup companies and small businesses as part of President Barack Obama’s directive to promote entrepreneurship, the administration announced.

“The story of America really is the story of entrepreneurship,” said Case, who met with Obama in the Oval Office before an event intended to kick off the initiative. “That really is the core underpinning that makes this nation great.”

Case’s appearance today at the White House for the administration’s “Startup America Partnership” was part of a week-long series of events aimed at encouraging investments by U.S. businesses in small firms. Carl Schramm, the president and chief executive officer of the Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit promoting entrepreneurship, will be a founding board member of the private-sector-led campaign.

The initiative includes pledges from companies, including Facebook Inc., Intel Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., and International Business Machines Corp., to increase their investments in startup companies.

As part of the initiative, Intel will commit $200 million in new investments in U.S. technology companies, IBM will invest $150 million to fund programs for entrepreneurs and HP is investing more than $4 million in learning initiatives.

Government-Private Partnership

Case, 52, who in 1997 created the Case Foundation, a charity that pays for after-school technology programs for poor children, resigned as chairman of AOL Time Warner Inc. in 2003, two years after he oversaw AOL’s $124 billion purchase of Time Warner Inc. -- a time span in which the company’s shares fell 67 percent. He was joined by entrepreneurs, business leaders and administration officials at today’s event.

Among those present from the administration were Energy Secretary Steven Chu; Commerce Secretary Gary Locke; Small Business Administrator Karen Mills; the director of the National Economic Council, Gene Sperling; and the White House’s chief economist, Austan Goolsbee. The president did not attend.

“America leads the world in pure raw innovation. We have the best research universities and research institutions. We also have the most creative entrepreneurs,” Chu said. “These are engines of job creation and economic growth and by unleashing this potential we can compete, we can win in a global market.”

In his Jan. 25 State of the Union address Obama said part of his plan to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world” includes more investments in education, technology and infrastructure to reduce unemployment and ensure that the U.S. can compete with economic rivals.

Criticism on Taxes

Republicans argue that the president’s pledge to fight to end tax cuts for the wealthy would lead to a huge tax increase on small businesses.

“The president’s job-crushing tax hike would have hit 750,0000 small businesses and 50 percent of all small business income in America,” Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said in an e-mailed statement.

Obama’s fiscal 2012 budget, set for release Feb. 14, will include a proposal to make the elimination of capital gains taxes on certain investments in small businesses permanent, according to the announcement. The budget will also include an expansion of the New Markets Tax Credit to help encourage investments in startup companies and small businesses based in low-income areas.

The White House also will announce that the Small Business Administration will direct $2 billion in existing guarantee authority over the next 5 years to match private sector investments in lower-income areas.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kate Andersen Brower in Washington at kandersen7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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