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Innovation, Research, Immigration Reform are key to Austin’s future

Posted By Greater Austin Chamber | Jun 12, 2018
Chamber, Public Policy Print Article US Capitol

For the second year in a row, Austin was recently named Best City to Live in America by U.S. News & World Report, and every day about 110 net new people are in the region. People are coming to the Austin area for the great weather, culture, barbecue, and music. But mostly, people are moving here because it’s where the opportunities are for jobs and growth.

The Austin region has added 382,000 direct new jobs over the past 14 years. These jobs cut across all socio-economic classes, everything from administrative roles to software engineers. Innovative startups are popping up here almost every day, and major companies like Merck, Home Depot and GM are regularly announcing new innovative ventures.

Through the Greater Austin Chamber’s focus on making Austin work for everyone, it has created significant opportunities for people to find new jobs, advance careers, and support families. But all of this can change – here and in local communities across the country – without federal policies that support growth. This week several representatives from the Austin region – elected officials, business leaders – are in DC to ask Congress to help us continue providing economic opportunity for all. Here is what we hope Congress will do to help our citizens.

Support Research Innovation and Talent

Policymakers and industry must work together to create flexible policies to ensure the United States continues to lead the world in innovation. This includes evaluating existing regulations that unnecessarily inhibit technology innovation and encourage the use of industry-developed global standards in regulation. A good start is Congressman Michael McCaul’s “One In, One Out” legislation that would require federal agencies to repeal an existing regulation before adding a new one.

Congress should also maintain and strengthen investments in the next generation of economic opportunity. They need to sustain at a rate above inflation investments in basic science and translational research in NIST, NIH, NSF and STEM education within the NASA budget. 

We encourage Congress to continue to invest in the military’s critical efforts to ensure ‘overmatch’ on the battlefield through its Defense Innovation Unit Experimental program -- to include the current site located in Austin -- and invest in programs like AFWERXs, Army Research Lab South, National Geospatial Intelligence, the 75th Innovation Command and the Army Futures Command. 

We also must invest in education and the future workforce through supporting policies like the Cyber Scholarship Opportunities Act, reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, and supporting the Workflex in the 21st Century Act. 

Make Meaningful Reforms to Immigration

Half of master’s and PhD program graduates in engineering and computer science at The University of Texas are foreign nationals, while Central Texas employers have about 9,800 current job postings in those two fields.

Congress should make meaningful immigration reforms to help American businesses access the world's best talent. This should include an increase to the net number of legal immigration slots to the United States and make Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals a statutory law. We also support an increase in legal immigration slots for highly skilled immigrants, H-2A and H-2B temporary workers, when a legitimate localized shortage is demonstrated. And we encourage the administration to indefinitely delay the rescission of the “Entrepreneur Rule.”

Invest in Infrastructure

Finally, we must invest in our national infrastructure, whether it be roads, airports, bridges or broadband.  We realize there has been strong bipartisan support for a major infrastructure initiative and we stand ready to ensure that we can reduce congestion and improve our ability to connect in America and throughout the world. 

These policies and priorities are just a fraction of what it will take to keep the U.S. a global leader. The Austin region has had an unprecedented run of success attracting talent, creating jobs, and providing opportunities for all who are looking, and with the support of Congress and the administration, we know that success can continue.

Greater Austin Chamber

The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce focuses on how the Austin Region works. We serve as the voice of business for 2,800 organizations representing a combined workforce of about 330,000 employees throughout Central Texas. Our mission is to provide leadership that facilitates the creation of a prosperous regional economy and effective advocacy for members.