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Bush appeals to tech companies

During a speech in Silicon Valley, the president emphasizes that lower taxes and trade barriers are key to increasing jobs.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--President Bush ventured into Silicon Valley on Tuesday, his first visit to the area since the tech boom went bust.

During a speech at the Tech Museum of Innovation here, Bush focused on fighting terrorism and promoted his "compassionate conservative" image, but he did touch on some tech issues.

Bush called Silicon Valley a "vibrant place" and indicated that he may pay more attention to California in the future.

"Because of its size, the health of the California economy influences every American," he told members of the Commonwealth Club and Churchill Club, the two groups sponsoring the speech.

Bush, who was greeted with hoots and hollers from fans upon his entrance, said that although the economy in general is showing signs of recovery, "this vital region reminds us that a lot of work needs to be done."

He promised to work to lower taxes and trade barriers, actions he said would lead to more jobs.

"I know American technology companies are the best in the world, and we must open new markets so they can sell to the world," he said.

To that end, Bush urged the Senate to pass a trade promotion authority measure and called on lawmakers to make his tax cuts permanent.

California as a whole, and Silicon Valley in particular, has not been friendly territory for Republican presidents and candidates in recent years. Democratic candidate and then-Vice President Al Gore won the state in the 2000 presidential election, and Silicon Valley has long voted Democratic. Democrat Bill Clinton was also popular in the state, making repeated trips to California during his tenure.

Attendees of the Bush speech said they were pleased to see a Republican visit the area and are hopeful he won't ignore them in the future.

"Maybe he's figured out that we're bigger, richer and more important," joked former software engineer Rodger Rittenburgh.

Don Dow, who left Sun Microsystems to go to law school as the economy started to turn south, said he liked Bush's promise to create more jobs and his acknowledgement that Silicon Valley is still in a slump.

"I think it's really important that he's put an emphasis on drumming up jobs because I still know a lot of people out of work," he said.