Pryor, Snowe Seek to Spur Innovation, Economic Development with Science Parks
Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) today introduced the Building a Stronger America Act to help construct or expand science parks, which offer a tremendous economic boost to local communities and help spur innovation. Science parks seek to incubate businesses, encourage new startups, generate student interest in science and technology fields, and encourage relationships between universities and industry. The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.).
"Science parks provide a launch pad for economic activity in a community. They have a strong record of fostering talent, high tech innovation and job growth. Providing seed funding to create or expand these parks is a necessary investment for our economy as well as our global competiveness," Pryor said.
"In order to reverse the present tide of economic stagnation, America must invest in the creation, development, and promotion of homegrown technologies," said Senator Snowe. "By pooling local talent and encouraging the exchange of ideas, science parks stimulate economic development and enhance American competiveness. Our bill will drive the expansion and improvement of existing science parks as well as support other technology development centers to restart the national economy at the local level."
Pryor and Snowe said the Building a Stronger America Act, which they originally introduced in May 2007, encourages communities to pool their resources in a science park. It would allow the Secretary of Commerce to guarantee up to 80 percent of loans exceeding $10 million for the construction of science parks. Additionally, the bill would further provide grants for the development of feasibility studies and plans for the construction of new or expansion of existing science parks. Finally, the bill would require the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate the program.
Science parks improve the economic base of a region and state. According to the Association of University Research Parks (AURP), science parks contribute over $31 billion to North America's economy annually. For example, 31 organizations are affiliated with the Arkansas Research and Technology Park at the University of Arkansas, employing more than 350 individuals at an average salary of $63,277. The Park is making scientific breakthroughs in areas that include energy, electronics and photonics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and "green" products and techniques.