U.S. President Barack Obama says America's businesses have big opportunities to grow and hire if they can get the financing they need.  The president met with the leaders of 12 small community banks. 

President Obama says his administration will work to encourage more lending to small businesses, which he says will drive the nation's economic recovery.

"There remain enormous opportunities, as we come out of this recession, for businesses to start growing again and to start hiring again," Mr.Obama said.

The president says he met with the small bank leaders because community banks serve a vital function throughout the country.
"They are folks who know their customers, do not just lend them money but also provide them advice if they are entrepreneurs and getting started," Mr.Obama said. "They are intimately woven into the fabric of the community."

The president also praised the smaller banks for their support of his proposed financial regulatory reforms.  He said community bankers are generally not responsible for the reckless lending that led to the crash of the U.S. financial system.

"Most of these community banks were not engaged in some of the hugely risky activities that helped to precipitate the financial crisis," Mr.Obama said.

Mr. Obama told reporters he will not leave Washington for Christmas vacation until the Senate finishes work on health care reform.  The president and his family were scheduled to leave Wednesday, but the Senate is expected to vote late Thursday.  

The Obamas are expected to spend the holidays in the president's home state of Hawaii, but the White House has not confirmed their travel plans.