SSTI Digest

Geography: Texas


Carolyn Stark is the new director of the Austin Technology Council, filling the position vacated by Paul Toprac.

Texas Governor Creates Biotech Council

Last week, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced the formation of the Governor's Council on Science and Biotechnology Development. The Council will strive to create a seamless system of innovation from the laboratory to the marketplace in rapidly developing areas of biotechnology — such as biopharmaceutical development, bioinformatics, genomics and nanotechnology.

Governor Perry described the Council's mission as one that will ultimately bring more research dollars to Texas higher education institutions, encourage university researchers to get products that advance the quality of life to the market, and create biotechnology jobs — and growing companies — across Texas.

Among its responsibilities, the 36-member Council will work to identify ways institutions of higher learning can coordinate efforts to attract federal research funds. Currently, Texas ranks sixth in research funds received from the National Institute of Health and third overall in research expenditures.

The Council also will develop a strategy to increase research and development expenditures in Texas, including both private and public funds. The Governor urged the council to identify ways to commercialize intellectual property that helps turn an idea into a marketable medicine or product.

Ashley Smith, a senior advisor on the governor's staff, will serve as chairman of the Council. Smith is a former member of the Texas House and serves as chairman of the Southeast Texas BioTechnology Park in Houston. He is also president and CEO of the Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research in Houston.

More information is available from:

Signs of the Times: Dell's Hometown Plans for Future

If one were asked to identify localized examples of the economic spectacle that was the late 1990s, the metro region of Austin, Texas would be on most short lists. A recently completed economic development plan from the tech-soaked Austin suburb of Round Rock, however, reflects the fundamental upheaval or disruption that characterizes the economies of many regions of the country.

Round Rock has grown quickly, doubling in population during the last decade to become the second largest city in the Austin-San Marcos metro area. It is experiencing for the first time, like many other cities emerging in a decade marked by rapid urban sprawl, the challenges of a recession.

With 62,000 well-educated and well-paid residents, Round Rock appears in many ways to fit the model of any affluent "bedroom" suburbs across the country. A look at the city's tax receipts, however, reveals a community more similar to the "company towns" of mining, logging and other natural resource exploitative economies: one business contributes half of the city's annual sales tax receipts of $31.7 million. That company, Dell Computers, is based in Round Rock and, through a unique arrangement, gives the city 2 percent of the sales tax generated from every Dell computer system sold in the state.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a significant focus of The Round Rock Target Industry and Marketing Strategic Plan calls for diversification in high-tech sectors or local clusters currently weak but with potential to grow: telecommunications, software/multimedia/data, business and professional services, and to a lesser degree, retail and health services. The plan encourages the community as it diversifies its tax and employment base to build upon the strength of the existing computer equipment and electronics firms in town.

As competition for new business grows among neighboring communities, the plan advises Round Rock leaders to develop the economic development strategies already established in many older cities: encouraging and assisting local entrepreneurship; marketing/branding the community; developing a business recruitment, relocation and expansion program; implementing beautification/landscaping programs; and updating the city's incentive package.

The 182-page plan can be downloaded from

2001 Texas Legislature Acts Favorably For Tech-Based ED

More than $800 million for science, engineering, research, and commercialization activities

Each year a few state legislatures are more active than others on issues affecting efforts to grow tech-based economies. With $385 million for research infrastructure, $45 million committed to commercialization and seed financing, nearly $150 million for university and life science research, more than $300 million for college scholarships, authorization to create university commercialization centers, a series of tax credits, and $20 million for a biotech park, the recently concluded 77th legislative session in Texas was one of the busiest and most aggressive proponents nationally for technology-based economic development (TBED).

By addressing multiple tech-related initiatives proposed by Governor Rick Perry in his State of the State message, as well as many of its members' own creation, this Texas legislature was the most supportive of science, research and tech-based economic development in recent years for the state.

Sorting through the dozens of TBED bills for all new programs and hundreds of millions of dollars to be invested is a formidable task. Liza Porteus of the National Journal’s Technology Daily reported on more than a dozen information technology and telecommunications-related bills in her June 7 column. Additional highlights pulled from 20 more bills include:

Science, Technology Research Infrastructure

House Bill (HB) 653, the capital appropriations bill for the 2002-2003 biennium, includes nearly $385 million for construction, laboratory expansion, and equipment acquisition for a statewide network of research, science and engineering facilities in the state’s universities and colleges. Seven new or expanded health science research centers, 11 renovated or new buildings dedicated to other sciences, five engineering and industrial technology facilities are financed through the bill. A breakdown of the science and tech-related items identified in HB 653 is available online at:


Stefanie Sanford has joined Texas Governor Perry's office as Policy Director for Technology & Telecommunications

Texas Workforce Plan and Governor’s Budget Priorities In Sync

With his past efforts to strengthen the state’s position in the tech-based economy, new Texas Governor Rick Perry’s budget priorities — $251 million in new spending for college scholarships and math & science programs — should come as no surprise.

According to a recent article in the Austin American Statesman, Governor Perry’s budget recommendations will include $211 million in increased funding for college scholarships for lower-income students and $40 million for a new Master Math Teacher program to encourage more K-12 math instruction. Governor Perry cited a technically skilled workforce, built on a strong math and science education, as being needed for the state’s technology economy.

The move, consistent with Perry’s activities while serving as Lieutenant Governor, may foreshadow the Lone Star State taking a more active role in encouraging tech-based economic development.

In the fall of 1999, Perry established the state’s Advisory Council on the Digital Economy. This past October, the Council released Bringing Digital Opportunity to All Texans, a comprehensive strategy designed to create a technically trained workforce for the Lone Star State. Among the panel’s recommendations are the creation of a new position of State Technology Commissioner and a State Technology Council to advise the governor and state leaders on technology strategies and opportunities concerning economic development and state services.

Key education-related recommendations included:


Joel Bauman, Senior Policy Analyst with the Southern Technology Council, is leaving to attend the University of Texas - Austin. Joel has been a great resource for SSTI over the past few years and we wish him success in business school

Texas Passes R&D Tax Credit

On October 1, Texas will begin offering a tax credit for business research and development expenditures. The new law, Texas Senate Bill 441, provides Texas corporations with a franchise tax credit equal to five percent of eligible R&D expenses for up to 50 percent of a company’s total franchise tax liability. Unused portions may be carried forward for up to 20 years.

Texas Unveils Science & Technology Strategic Plan

Texas' Science and Technology Council recently released a science and technology strategic plan. The Council's vision is to make Texas the nation's leader in science and technology in the 21st century. The plan's premise is that technology is the economic force driving much of the state's current wealth and job creation. The report develops a series of recommendations with the intent of developing the research capacity and human resources Texas will need to ensure economic prosperity in the next century.

Texas Creates S&T Council

Last month, Governor George W. Bush issued an Executive Order that created the Texas Science and Technology Council. The mission of the 21 member board is to "research, develop, and report to the Governor the means available to the State of Texas to become the national leader in science and technology cooperation, development, and research."