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Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - 12:41pm

Officials Pressed Obama in Brief Encounters

Updated: 4 years ago.
President Barack Obama spoke a Savannah Technical College in Savannah, Ga. on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010. (photo Orlando Montoya)

His talking points were about jobs and energy.

But President Obama's trip could end up being remembered in Savannah more for harbor deepending and Ft. Stewart expansion.

During his brief four-hour trip to the coastal city on Tuesday, Mr. Obama gave a speech urging passage of a federal jobs program.

It was aimed partly at Congress.

He wants federal lawmakers to include a program called HomeStar in economic recovery efforts.

But while Mr. Obama was here, local leaders had different items on their agenda.

A few said they got brief moments of the president's time.

Political analyst and Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Robert Eisinger, says it'll take years to gauge the visit's local impact.

"The real issue, ultimately, is when the mayor of Savannah, Congressman Kingston and Congressman Barrow meet with the President, talk with the President and generate some ideas," Eisinger says. "Those are the kinds of effects that one does not measure in one day."

Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson rode with the president in Mr. Obama's limosine.

It was a relatively brief trip from Hunter Army Airfield and Savannah Technical College to downtown Savannah.

But in it, the Mayor says, he pushed Mr. Obama on the need to deepen the Savannah harbor.

Georgia business leaders agree that the harbor needs to be deepened by six feet in order for it to remain competitive when the Panama Canal goes deeper in 2014.

Mayor Johnson, a Democrat, also told the president about Savannah's interest in being one of several cities selected for the so-called Promise Neighborhood program.

In that program, cities are given grants to start up projects modeled on the Harlem Kid Zone, helping low-income students achieve educational goals.

The one-on-one interaction could prove to be important.

"When you hear that Congressman Kingston flew on Air Force One back to Washington with President Obama, one has to think that if he got 20 minutes or even 10 minutes of speaking time with the president, that has residual positive effects for Savannah," Eisinger says.

A spokesman for Jack Kingston says, the Congressman used his face time with Mr. Obama to press the need to lessen the effects of the Army's recent decision not to locate a new combat brigade at Ft. Stewart.

The decision means thousands of soldiers won't be stationed at the Hinesville-based military installation.

Rep. Kingston also talked about Savannah harbor deepening and the importance of agriculture to the state's economy.

The Congressman, a Republican, also requested that Mr. Obama name him to a bipartisan commission on fiscal responsibility.

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