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Dear Mr. President: Buffalo needs 'freakin' jobs, billboard says

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'Mr. President, I need a freakin job....'
  • Buffalo billboard is brainchild of business owner who lost his textile company
  • "I need a freakin job" has spurred a movement calling attention to unemployment
  • Billboard went up just in time for Obama's visit to Buffalo on Thursday

(CNN) -- "I need a freakin job."

That's the message on a billboard that went up in Buffalo, New York, just in time for President Obama's town hall meeting there Thursday.

On CNN's American Morning, the creator of the billboard, Jeff Baker, said he was inspired to help pay for the eye-catching gimmick because he wanted to "refocus the national dialogue" back to "basic job creation."

When the economy went south, Baker and his brother lost their 10-year-old textile business, which employed 25 people. Their family's woes are reflected throughout the city of Buffalo, which suffers from one of the country's highest poverty rates, with nearly 30 percent of its population living at or below the poverty line. Buffalo's unemployment rate is at 8.6 percent, while the national average is 9.7 percent.

"Like many other businesses in the country, we got caught in the banking collapse and were basically forced out of business," Baker said of his family business. "So for the first time in my life, I found myself as an unemployed dad and husband and person."

A Congressional Oversight Committee report out Thursday said the biggest Wall Street banks slashed their small-business loan portfolios by 9 percent between 2008 and 2009, more than double the rate at which they cut their overall lending.

And though recent indicators have suggested improvement in the job market, with employers adding 290,000 jobs in April, the most in four years, Baker said he and many others haven't seen those improvements.

"We really identify with the fact that we're in this productive nation," Baker said. "And without it, I feel we're in a bit of identity crisis."

Baker is asking for more frank discussion that leads to tangible job creation.

"I would love to sit down and talk about the small-business perspective, a beer-jobs summit with regular knuckleheads like me," he told The Buffalo News.

The billboard has inspired a Facebook movement, found by searching for Close to 1,000 people had said they "like" the site and had left encouraging messages on its wall when the billboard made national news Thursday morning.

President Obama's visit to Buffalo is part of his "White House to Main Street" tour. He has most recently traveled to Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.