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Keeping Texans Competitive

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Keeping Texans Competitive

Growing up in Paint Creek, a farming town in West Texas, my likely competition for jobs, income or college admission was the 100 or so students in our district. Over the last few decades, the notion of competing on a local basis like this has become obsolete. Whether you credit the World Wide Web, cell phones or the ease of international flights, our world has become much smaller, and the competition our students face much fiercer. When my children graduated from an Austin public high school a few years ago, they were not just competing with students in their town like I did. Instead they were entering the arena with students across Texas, New York and even Singapore. Today's fast-moving technology, improved telecommunications and increasing education levels around the world are placing our children in direct competition with students across the globe.

This scenario is not just playing out in schools, it's happening to just about anyone holding down a job in Texas. We no longer just compete with the machine shop across town or the software developer in the next state. Instead, we're going head-to-head with companies in Germany, Japan and China. The steady emergence of new technologies with prefixes like bio, nano and aero reminds us that technology will continue to leap with lightening speed and ripple changes through the global market. Although I am proud that, considered alone, our economy would rank as the eighth largest in the world, I'm concerned we won't retain that status if we don't fight for it.

That's why I recently invited leaders from state government, education and the private sector to form a Competitiveness Council. I challenged them to design a game plan that will keep the Texas economy competitive in the future. This group of 29 visionaries will start by identifying obstacles in state government that keep Texas from high-performance in the global marketplace. This could be regulations that no longer make sense or bulky approval processes that don't incorporate modern technologies. I expect them to also recommend sensible fixes for the problems.

We need fixes that better mesh the many gears of state government with the needs of industry. Our state's various commissions and regulatory agencies unfortunately sometimes produce counter-productive regulations and must deal with outdated laws, and short-sighted policies that can stifle our economy. We need to fill the gap between millions of research dollars and a final marketable product. One great university stepping forward to fill in that gap is Texas A&M University. It recently added the commercialization of a product as part of it tenure track for professors.

We must also ensure our hard-working educators teach knowledge and skills that match the needs of a technology-based, 21st Century economy. It's a travesty that so many U.S. high school graduates are unprepared for that next step, whether that be a college course, the military or the workplace. Consider the fact that, although engineers are in high demand, U.S. colleges last year conferred more degrees in sports exercise than electrical engineering, according to Newsweek. And according to the same source, universities in China and India cranked out more than 10 times the technical experts than U.S. schools did in the same timeframe. Those disparities demonstrate why we need an educational system that produces young Texans qualified for jobs in the global marketplace.

Although Texas created one million net new jobs in the past four years, we must do better. The Competitiveness Council forms a new nexus of Texas leaders who have the wisdom to target government glitches and produce solutions to keep the Texas economy going and the rising generation of Texans employed. By reforming our economic climate, making it friendlier to investment, innovation and job creation, we will position our state to compete locally, nationally and globally. We must do what it takes to guarantee Texas stays on the cutting edge of competition.


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