But he also defended regulation, noting that American businesses must understand that the government must into place "basic standards that are necessary to protect the American people from harm or exploitation."
"Not every regulation is bad. Not every regulation is burdensome on business," the president said. "A lot of the regulations that are out there are things that all of us welcome in our lives. Few of us would want to live in a society without rules that keep our air and water clean, that give consumers the confidence to do everything from investing in financial markets to buying groceries."
The Chamber became a chief bogeyman for the president and Democrats last fall on the campaign trail. In October, Obama, his top administration officials and many Democrats pounced on a report by the liberal group ThinkProgress that pointed out that the Chamber had some foreign funding sources.
It is illegal to use foreign money for political activity and Democrats used the report to try to force the Chamber to reveal its donor list.
"Groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections, and they won't tell you where the money for their ads come from," Obama said at the time. "The American people deserve to know who's trying to sway their elections….It could be the oil industry, the insurance industry, Wall Street - you'll never know. Their lips are sealed, but the floodgates are open."
The White House kept up this drum beat for weeks, using this as a main talking point before the November elections.
"Just disclose where your money is coming from and that will end all the questions," said then-senior White House adviser David Axelrod. "The fact is they are spending $75 million in this campaign and they will not disclose where one dime is coming from."
The Chamber pushed back, saying they segregate the foreign money from the domestic political activity.
"We're under no obligation as any organization or association in the United States is, to divulge who its members are, who its contributors are," said Chamber Executive VP Bruce Josten last fall. "We are under legal obligations to account and have an accounting method that ensures that in our accounts that funds or any aspect of money that comes from a foreign source is not in any way utilized in any political sense. We ensure that we do that," he said.
White House Makes Job Creation Top Priority for 2011
Beyond the speech at the Chamber today, there have been other signals in recent weeks that the White House is looking to mend fences with the business community, including staffing decisions and discussions with business leaders. Top executives have complained in recent months that the relationship between them and the White House has been strained
In December, Obama met with nearly two dozen American CEO's with a clear message: start investing capital and start hiring.
"I want to dispel any notion we want to inhibit your success," President Obama told 20 CEOs , according to a source in the room. "We want to be boosters because when you do well, America does well."
When he announced his selection of William Daley as his new chief of staff, Obama was clear on what he was looking for.