We’re not likely to describe Barack Obama as a “pro-business” president — not anytime soon, at least.

But we are encouraged by the president’s recent efforts to reach out to the business community in the interest of spurring the economy and establishing better cooperation between government and job creators. When an ideologically pro-regulation president promises, as Obama did in his State of the Union speech, to fix rules “that put an unnecessary burden on businesses,” he is taking an impressive step in the right direction.

When Obama stands before a gathering of business executives at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and calls for business and government to work together, as he did this week, he shows that he is willing to address the economic imperatives of the country he was elected to lead.

The Democratic president, perhaps awakened by the uprising of dissatisfied voters who put Republicans in charge of the U.S. House of Representatives last November, seems to be suppressing his innate liberal distrust of business in the service of a higher goal: economic recovery. It’s possible, of course, that Obama’s goal is simply political survival, which is fine by us as long as his road to re-election is paved with policies that create a more business-friendly climate in the nation’s capital and across the country.

“As a government, we will help lay the foundation for you to grow and innovate,” Obama said in his speech to the chamber. “We will upgrade our transportation and communications networks so you can move goods and information more quickly and cheaply. We will invest in education so that you can hire the most skilled, talented workers in the world. And we’ll knock down barriers that make it harder for you to compete — from the tax code to the regulatory system.”

It’s a familiar refrain — from Republican politicians, not from Democrats, and certainly not from a Democrat who spent most of his 2008 presidential campaign and much of his first two years in office bashing capitalism while catering to the anti-business base of his party.

If he means what he’s saying, Obama has not merely moved philosophically toward the political center; he also is confronting economic reality in a way that his critics never believed he could or would.

But, like any president who compromises on issues he cares about, Obama wants something in return.

“Many of your own economists and salespeople are now forecasting a healthy increase in demand,” he told the business leaders. “So I want to encourage you to get in the game.”

He urged them to hire, to expand, to invest in their companies and in the nation’s future.

It was a reasonable request. Many businesses, especially large ones, benefited greatly from government bailouts and federal stimulus spending over the past few years. Some, in fact, owe their continued existence to taxpayer money that came their way when the economy hit rock bottom.

American workers, meanwhile, have endured layoffs and pay cuts; small businesses have struggled to stay afloat without government subsidies; and taxpayers have continued to fork over their hard-earned dollars to the government while receiving very little in return.

The difficult economy of recent years has been challenging for business, as it has for federal, state and local governments.

Many businesses have retrenched and, more often than not, that retrenchment has been critical to those businesses’ continued viability. Businesses are not in business for the sole purpose of providing jobs to people who need them; when a business creates or preserves a job, it must do so with a disciplined understanding of how that job contributes to the company’s bottom line.

But the economy is improving, and the president is right to call on businesses that are profiting from the recovery to give something back, to stop stockpiling capital, to start investing in the nation’s growth.

“As you all know, it is investments made now that will pay off as the economy rebounds,” Obama said. “And as you hire, you know that more Americans working means more sales, greater demand and higher profits for your companies.”

Barack Obama touting the glories of supply and demand, of higher profits? Maybe he’ll turn out to be a pro- business president after all.