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Lawmakers Move to Support Workforce Training, Strengthen Industry Clusters

July 17, 2013

At the close of many recent legislative sessions, states across the country moved to strengthen their high-tech workforce while supporting industry cluster development.

In Washington state, the Working Washington Agenda has received bipartisan support to strengthen the state’s economic foundations on a wide range of fronts. The final bill provides funding for STEM education, improves workforce training programs, and assists with the growth of key industries. One highlight of legislation supporting cluster development is the creation of a Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation, backed by $1.5 million in state funding, which is being used to fund 18 research projects across the state. Each grant connects an in-state aerospace company with public university partners to support the commercialization of new technologies. Currently, the University of Washington, Washington State, and Western Washington are participating. The program is designed to assist aerospace companies of all sizes, and includes $300,000 in grants for 12 high schools to adopt aerospace assembly programs.

The Working Washington Agenda also directs $40 million toward the creation of the Governor’s Clean Energy Fund, which is being established to help finance energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. Funding will help electrical utilities develop and use new technologies to cut costs for integrating renewable energy into the electrical grid, support clean energy R&D, and help establish a federal manufacturing innovation center. The bill also provides $6 million for the University of Washington to create a clean energy institute that will focus on next-generation technology for energy storage and solar energy. New York also is pushing to support industry clusters by providing $50 million for venture capital funding for the state’s regional economic development councils, as well as $55 million in challenge grant funding for SUNY universities to expand their research facilities.

Texas, Washington, and Hawaii are investing in the foundation of their economy by passing legislation that supports inclusive workforce training. In Texas, legislation recently passed that will create a veterans entrepreneurship program. The program will serve as a clearinghouse for efforts to support the inclusion of the state’s veterans into state-supported entrepreneurship programs. Hawaii has channeled $6 million to the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation to launch a new, comprehensive state-level program. The Hawaii Growth Initiative, will assist startup companies by providing tech commercialization assistance, training programs, access to mentors and connections with networks of investors. Washington’s recent legislation contains an initiative to strengthen STEM education in the state, providing more than $100 million to build facilities for science, technology, engineering, and math at state universities and colleges.

Texas, Washington and Pennsylvania also are pushing to promote closer connections between government and the private sector. In Texas, legislation recently passed that will create an entrepreneurship-in-residence program for state agencies, with resident entrepreneurs supporting the outreach of state agencies to the private sector. In Washington, a new initiative also will seek to improve the state’s business climate by creating a one-stop portal for businesses and taxpayers. The state’s chief information officer, in collaboration with the Departments of Revenue, Labor and Industries, the secretary of state, Employment Security Department, Department of Commerce and Center for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance are responsible for instituting a one-stop portal for business and taxpayers by November 2013. Pennsylvania will be leveraging partnerships with the private sector to supply state-based venture development organizations with capital, auctioning off $100 million in insurance tax credits in a scheme developed from a successful program enacted in Maryland.

Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington