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Tech Talkin’ Govs Part IV: governors talk change, new administration, tech and education

February 02, 2017

More than half of the country’s governors have delivered their state of the state addresses. Last week’s addresses tended to relate to the national election and the incoming administration, with some governors heralding the change and others pledging to try to reach a bipartisan understanding while standing firm on issues they believe in, like climate change in California. Although TBED issues may not have been at the forefront of the addresses, science, technology and especially innovation and higher education continue to receive attention. This week we zero in on comments delivered by governors in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana and Utah.


Gov. Jerry Brown thanked those that were gathered to hear his address for their enthusiasm, noting that, “It is just what we need for the battle ahead. So keep it up and don't ever falter.” Instead of the usual address laying out his plan for the state, Brown used his address to focus on the state within the broader context of the country and its challenges. While he did not focus on technology issues, he did stress the science behind climate change and noted that, “our state is known the world over for the actions we have taken to encourage renewable energy and combat climate changes.”


In Hawaii, Gov. David Ige, noted that his state is able to face the current “challenging and exciting times” from solid ground, but admitted that there is work to be done:

“To transform our economy, we need to transform our schools, so our children can provide the brain power and fill the jobs required in a knowledge-based industry. To keep them here, we need to ensure that our economy provides challenging and satisfying careers and homes they can afford. And we need to protect our lands and natural resources, which underpin everything. These are tough challenges.

“Together, we must pursue our own self-made opportunities through education, innovation and entrepreneurship. We must tap our greatest resource, our people, to find our way to the next great economic transformation: the development of an innovation sector. We have done much in the last two years to move us down that path. We have a blueprint for schools that will prepare our children to fill the jobs that the new economic sector will require. A strong university also plays a key role in creating a new economy. The University of Hawaii has embraced innovation and has successfully launched a number of creative initiatives. We are already expanding the economy, focusing on areas such as energy, ocean and earth science, and astronomy, where we have expertise.

“I am also proposing to establish the Hawaii Promise Program that will fill the gap between what a qualifying family can afford and the cost of community college, without taking out a loan to cover tuition, fees, and books.

“…I strongly believe that the long-term sustainability of our economy must center on innovation. … A recent report, sponsored by the Hawaii Business Roundtable, found that innovation jobs already make up over seven percent of Hawaii’s economy.

“In fact, about 145 start-ups have gone through the accelerator programs.  With a $10 million investment, the start-ups have generated over $250 million in total capital. That’s why the budget includes additional funds for the HI Growth program. 

“In addition to HI Growth, the state has undertaken other initiatives that utilize innovation to grow the bottom line. A good example is Hawaii’s Clean Energy Mandate. Our goal of generating 100 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2045 is good for both our economy and the environment.

 “To engage the local tech community in the modernization of state government, we began a code challenge.  We brought local talent together to develop modern tools and applications to provide enhanced government services to the public. The challenge is based on a Hackathon, a problem-solving event that brings together creative individuals to explore new technologies or programming language.”


Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner cited the problems facing the state and called for bipartisan cooperation so that, “Illinois can once again be the economic engine of the Midwest and the home of innovation and prosperity for everyone.”

“Working in partnership, we can create a technology and innovation center here in the Midwest that can rival Silicon Valley or North Carolina's Research Triangle, creating tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. … Critical to our success is helping our world-class research universities like the U of I and SIU to extend their footprint in the state, form alliances with other great research institutions like the University of Chicago and Northwestern, and significantly expand their efforts in research and innovation. Our goal must be for our great research universities to drive the same stunning level of company formation, entrepreneurship, innovation and wealth creation as Harvard and MIT have done for New England and Stanford and Berkley have done for California.”


In his second state of the commonwealth address, Gov. Charlie Baker touted job creation and innovation as drivers of the state’s economy, and focused on other successes for the state:

“We’ve also made attending a public college more affordable. Through the Commonwealth Commitment we’ve created a pathway for students to secure a bachelor’s degree from UMass or one of our state universities for half the price.

“We all know that high-speed internet has become central to the ways we communicate, learn and do business. But too many communities in Western Mass still don’t have access to this essential service. That’s why this past May we completely overhauled the Last Mile program for our rural communities.

“We’re already one of the three most important players in cyber security in the world.  Businesses in Massachusetts protect proprietary information and secure smart machines and smart buildings from attack. But this industry is just taking off. Hundreds of billions of dollars will be spent over the next decade to protect information and assets. Massachusetts’ organizations should play a major role in driving these decisions. Over the next 10 months we’ll bring together the best minds locally and globally to develop a blueprint for success here in Massachusetts.”


Although he collapsed about 45 minutes into his state of the state address, Gov. Mark Dayton was back at work the following morning to present his budget. During his state of the state speech, he highlighted the state’s current budget surplus and called for targeted investments:

“Those excellent educations, from early childhood, to K-12 elementary and secondary, to colleges and universities, are increasingly the pre-requisites for better jobs, higher incomes, and healthier lifestyles. If we were ever to lose our educational superiority, the damage to our state's social and economic well-being would be irreparable. That is why a top priority during my six years as Governor has been to restore state funding for our elementary and secondary schools and our public colleges, universities, and technical schools; … Those investments are our best strategies for closing achievement gaps and for raising the skill levels of all our students.

“Already, growing businesses throughout Minnesota are experiencing shortages of people to fill their available jobs, especially in more highly skilled areas – making our continued investments in education and workforce training even more important.

“Thus, increased investments in the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State are crucial to meeting businesses' future workforce needs. It surprises some to learn that state funding for higher education – for Minnesota State, the University of Minnesota, and the state grant and loan programs – had fallen significantly during previous decades.  … In addition to increasing General Fund support for our public colleges, universities, and student aid programs, it is also critical that we increase the capital investments needed to repair and expand existing buildings and to build new, world-class facilities.”


Gov. Steve Bullock delivered his state of the state address in Helena on Jan. 24 and called the current condition of the state “strong” due in part to a diversification of the state’s economy:

“The biggest challenge Montana businesses face is growth itself.

“Today, there are over 6,500 listed job openings across our state. As I talk to employers, they consistently tell me that their greatest barrier to expansion is recruiting enough talented and trained workers.

“And while we have made significant strides over the last four years, there is more we can do. 
First, I’m asking you to invest in businesses that are playing a role in training the workers we need. We’ve increased apprenticeships by almost 30 percent these past four years, but a greater need remains. I’m proposing that we give businesses a $1,000-dollar tax credit for each apprentice they hire – helping the employers get the skilled workforce they need, and better paying workers as they advance their skillset. And, if the apprentice hired is a veteran, I’m asking you to provide a $2,000-dollar tax credit.” 


Gov. Gary Herbert expressed his confidence that with the Trump administration power will be returned to the states and “that the new administration and Congress, working with the states, will enact major reforms that will enable us as a state to gain greater control and management over education, transportation, healthcare, natural resources, and our public lands.”

“But let me simply note these meaningful, bottom-line facts: last year, Utah had one of the fastest growing technology sectors in the nation, …

“[J]obs in Utah’s aerospace industry are growing faster than there are trained workers to fill them. To address this, in 2015, I announced a pilot program — called Utah Aerospace Pathways.

“…I am pleased to announce tonight a major collaboration called Talent Ready Utah that will accelerate these mutually reinforcing successes. Led by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and my education advisor Tami Pyfer, and in partnership with the State Board of Education, Talent Ready Utah will expand career opportunities statewide by increasing the number of business and education partnerships. Over the next four years — for pathway-like programs alone — Talent Ready Utah will recruit hundreds of businesses across Utah to partner with and invest in local education.
And we anticipate that Talent Ready Utah will help fill 40,000 new high-skill, high-paying jobs over the next four years.”

California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Utahtech talkin govs