WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, surrounded by business leaders who say they will bring jobs back to the United States from abroad, said Wednesday the nation is facing a “make-or-break” point for its middle class.

The White House event, called “Insourcing American Jobs,” was centered on the idea of “insourcing” — bringing jobs outsourced to other countries back to domestic workers. Obama said he met with various business leaders earlier in the day to listen to their concerns about the U.S. economy. Among those were representatives of Ford Motor Co., Master Lock, Lincolnton Furniture, GalaxE Solutions, Intel, Siemens and DuPont.

“These companies are choosing to invest in the one country with the most productive workers, the best universities and the most creative and innovative entrepreneurs in the world, and that is the United States of America,” Obama said. “That’s exactly the kind of commitment to country we need – especially now, at this make-or-break moment for the middle class.”

A Bureau of Economic Analysis report said that from 2001 to 2007, U.S. companies’ investment in equipment and software declined by 15 percent. Over the same time, the manufacturing industry lost 3 million jobs, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Ford has committed to moving 2,000 jobs back to America as part of its $16 billion investment in the United States.

Obama also announced that Master Lock — because it has moved nonunion jobs from China to union jobs in Milwaukee — is now producing at full capacity for the first time in 15 years.

Bruce Cochrane, president of Lincolnton Furniture, a manufacturer of wooden furniture in Lincolnton, N.C., said after the forum that his company now has the opportunity to bring jobs to work in the same facility his family used before the jobs were outsourced. He said this move allows the company to produce furniture using green products, unlike those that were being used in China.

Obama urged other businesses to consider investing more money and more jobs in America.

“I don’t want the next generation of manufacturing jobs taking root in countries like China or Germany,” Obama said. “I want them taking root in places like Michigan and Ohio and Virginia and North Carolina. And that’s a race that America can win. That’s the race businesses like these will help us win.”

Bryan Riley, senior policy analyst for The Heritage Foundation, said in a telephone interview that he does not agree that the country is at a “make-or-break” point.

“I think we’re always at a turning point where we always have an opportunity to adopt policies that would increase job creation or make it more difficult to create new jobs,” Riley said. “In recent years, unfortunately, it has typically become harder to create jobs in the United States as evidenced by our struggling economy.”

But Obama said America is at an “inflection point,” where it will have to fight to get jobs back. He said that is why he is pushing for the payroll tax cut extension so the middle class will not be hit with a tax hike.