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President seeks private sector help for ideas to stimulate economy

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White House focuses on jobs
  • "True economic recovery is only going to come from the private sector," says Obama
  • Forum attendees include CEOs, small-business owners, mayors, academics
  • Summit occurs amid allegations that White House is not doing enough to help unemployed
  • Critics call summit a publicity stunt, some threaten to organize march on Washington

(CNN) -- President Obama on Thursday called on business leaders from the private sector to generate ideas that will "accelerate job creation" and stimulate investment in the United States.

"While I believe that government has a critical role in creating the conditions for economic growth, ultimately, true economic recovery is only going to come from the private sector," Obama told attendees of the at the White House Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth. More than 100 CEOs, small-business owners, business leaders, mayors and academics attended.

"We don't have enough public dollars to fill the hole of private dollars that was created as a consequence of the crisis. It is only when the private sector starts to reinvest again; only when our businesses start hiring again and people start spending again and families start seeing improvement in their own lives again, that we're going to have the kind of economy that we want," Obama said.

The summit took place amid allegations from members of Obama's own party that the White House and the Democratic congressional leadership are not doing enough to help the unemployed.

Critics called the summit nothing more than a publicity stunt, and some are threatening to organize a march on Washington of jobless Americans if efforts to get more aid fail.

Video: Hungry for work

"Obviously, there's something that's not getting through to them," said Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois. "We'll get the American people involved. You know, I can see a day, unless we get some real cooperation and real help, I can really see a day where there will be a jobless march on Washington."

Rush and Reps. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, and Candice Miller, R-Michigan, chair the new congressional Jobs Now Caucus, which is made up of 112 Democrats and 17 Republicans.

Proposals being floated by members of the caucus include redirecting stimulus and TARP money to jobs programs and pressing for a new jobs bill, which they're careful not to call a "stimulus."

The summit also fell on the eve of the release of the government's November unemployment report. The nation is expected to have lost another 114,000 jobs, with unemployment remaining at 10.2 percent, the highest in 26 years, according to a survey by economists.

Yet Obama projected a positive tone as he recounted some of the day's discussions, on topics from clean energy and tax incentives to the export market, and the overlap among them.

"When we were in the infrastructure session, there was a strong emphasis on needing to plan not just for existing road projects, but also, how do we think about the fact that, in the future, we need a cleaner transportation industry?" he said.

"When we were in the clean energy session, there was an emphasis on how do we get small businesses and small contractors to get certified and get the financing needed to move forward and take advantage of these clean energy sector opportunities," he said.

"There's a lot of overlap between all these different breakout sessions that we engaged in," he said. "We're going to have to figure out how to break out of these silos and integrate these strategies if we're going to be able to get the most bang for the buck."

Coinciding with the jobs forum, organized labor and religious leaders in several cities sponsored events featuring unemployed and underemployed people to raise the public profile of the issue.

Events were held in Dayton, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; and Sacramento, California, on Wednesday, and in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Toledo, Ohio, on Thursday.

CNN's Jessica Yellin and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.