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Regional Innovation Key To Competitiveness, Economic Growth

Press Release

Location: McKinney, Texas

Regional Innovation Key To Competitiveness, Economic Growth

Today, the House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology (S&T) held a field hearing in McKinney, Texas, titled, Strengthening Regional Innovation: A Perspective from Northeast Texas. The hearing examined the importance of regional innovation centers to the U.S. economy and global competitiveness, and the roles of Federal, state, and local governments in supporting such centers.

“I think it is especially important as we work our way through these tough economic times that we take the time to learn from how things are done at the local and regional level, and there is no better place to start than right here in Northeast Texas,” said Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), the Committee's Ranking Member. “We certainly haven't been immune to the recession here, but we haven't been hit as hard as a lot of regions, and our employment data and longer-term business growth trends are impressive… I think that something has to do with how we foster the entrepreneurial spirit and the right kind of environment for technology and innovation, which we know over the long-term, translates to jobs.”

Hall continued, “Collin County, for example, is the fastest growing county in Texas and one of the fastest growing in the country. Unemployment here is under 7 percent—well below the national average—and almost half of adults 25 and older have a bachelor's degree—more than twice the national average. Given data such as this, it should be no surprise that this area is also a technology powerhouse—the greater Dallas area is the sixth largest technology center in the country, with over 225,000 technology jobs.”

In recent years, a growing consensus has emerged regarding the importance of science, technology, and innovation as the key driver of long-term economic growth and improved quality of life in America. Technological progress fueled by investments in research and development (R&D) is estimated to be responsible for as much as half of U.S. economic growth since World War II.

In a 2006 report by the National Academy of Sciences, titled, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, the authors recommended that the Federal government renew its focus on and support for R&D and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education as a policy priority. In response, Congress, led by S&T Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) and Ranking Member Hall, responded by passing the “America COMPETES Act” (Public Law 110-69), comprehensive legislation aimed at strengthening the Nation's scientific and technological enterprise in order to ensure it continues to lead the world in innovation and remains competitive in the 21st Century global economy.

In addition to the renewed focus on strengthening U.S. economic competitiveness through S&T at the national level, there is also a growing interest in improving understanding of and support for the innovation ecosystem on a regional scale. To this end, the Federal government has a strong interest in promoting innovation based on regional strengths. While the aforementioned Federal investments and policies—such as funding for R&D and STEM education—are critical, State and local governments, as well as higher education and industry, also play key roles in fostering a robust regional innovation environment.

Discussing a critical link in improving our Nation's STEM educated workforce, Dr. Cary Israel, President of Collin County Community College, testified on how improvements in community colleges are helping to serve the needs of a high-tech regional workforce. “We are presently exploring a new definition of the campus of the future for our East Collin County site,” Isreal reported. “We expect this to result in another leap forward for higher education in our region.”

He continued, “Community colleges contribute to the local economy by raising the standard of education in the market. We also provide public safety and healthcare personnel to serve our constituents in their times of need. Our success is inextricably tied to the community and positioned to contribute to the national recovery.”

From the perspective of a specialized high-tech industry, Mr. Patrick Humm, President of Hie Electronics of McKinney, detailed the enormous growth potential of Hie's data storage solutions business. “Data storage is a huge and rapidly expanding market which is expected to have an annual market spend of over $55B within ten years,” Humm said. “Because our product is an innovative, ‘green' and secure means of storing our nation's data for such an extended period of time, our potential growth may result in as large as $2.5B in revenue by 2016 or 2017.”

The following witnesses also testified at today's hearing:

Dr. Dan Jones, President, Texas A&M University-Commerce;

Dr. Martin Izzard, Vice President and Director, Digital Signal Processing Solutions R&D Center, Texas Instruments;

Mr. Bill Sproull, Vice-Chairman, Texas Emerging Technology Fund Advisory Committee; and

Mr. Tom Luce, Chief Executive Officer, National Math and Science Initiative.

For more information about the hearing, or to read witness testimony, please visit the GOP Science and Technology Committee website.

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