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White House guests reflect green-tech commitment

The companies invited to the White House on Monday reflect President Obama's belief that the economy will benefit from investments in green technology.

When the president announced on Monday a $1.2 billion investment in science research at national labs, he spoke at the White House before a select group of companies that reflect his commitment to reviving the economy through investments in green technology.

Representatives from more than two dozen companies joined an audience of lab directors and researchers to hear the president commit to funding projects that can spur job creation in the green-tech sector. The companies present mirrored the president's goals: there were many venture capital firms that have helped establish successful clean-energy companies, start-ups waiting for late-stage investments, and large companies that could represent the success possible.

"Progress is rarely easy, and I know people in this room understand that," Obama said. "Sometimes the funding dries up, or the investors walk away. Sometimes you have to fail before you can succeed. And often it takes not just the commitment of an innovator, but the commitment of a country to innovation."

The president highlighted the accomplishments of a few companies, including Serious Materials,which makes energy-efficient windows. The California-based company recently reopened a window factory in Pennsylvania that shed more than 100 jobs when it shut down.

Representatives from Solyndra were also present at Monday's announcement. The solar start-up is the first company to receive a grant from the Department of Energy as a result of stimulus funding. The funding will allow the company to build a second plant, which will employ about 1,000 people, once operating, and employ 3,000 people in its construction.

Representing both the potential in solar power as well as the potential to develop commercial products from basic research, executives from the firm Suniva also attended the White House event. The company last year received $50 million from investors, including New Enterprise Associations, to commercialize its photovoltaic cell technology.

New Enterprises Associates, one of the first venture capital firms to focus on energy-related investments, was present, as was RockPort Capital Partners, which funds energy, environmental, and advanced materials companies. There were also two investment banks present: Pacific Crest Securities is a technology-focused investment bank, and Fourth Sector Bancorp is the first venture bank devoted to sustainable enterprises.

One venture capital firm at the event, Craton Equity Partners, invests in green building materials, an area with potential for growth. Autodesk, which produces design software with a focus on sustainability, was also present. The president also highlighted the Seattle-based firm McKinstry Company, which is retrofitting schools and businesses to make them more energy efficient and expects to hire as many as 500 new workers in the next few years.