Tech execs tell how industry can grow

The electronics industry wants more tech graduates and tougher copyright laws in order to compete globally and stave off job outsourcing.

The Electronic Industries Alliance presented the U.S. Congress with a "playbook" on Wednesday consisting of 40 recommendations designed to keep the U.S. a leader in high-tech innovation.

"We want to make sure the next wave of innovation happens here," says Dave McCurdy, EIA president.

The loss of U.S. jobs to outsourcing overseas is just the start of the electronic industry's challenge, leaders from the industry say.

"Globalization is here, whether you like it or not," says Representative Tom Davis (R-Virginia). "We have to make steps to maintain our dominance."

Digital wish list

The playbook lists six types of initiatives that the tech executives consider necessary to ensure American jobs and global economic dominance. Better education was mentioned repeatedly in the conference.

"There is a reason we have so many foreign-born employees and why I am having trouble filling open positions," says Robert Struble, president and CEO of IBiquity Digital Corp., whose workforce is 33 percent foreign-born. "It would be difficult to overstate how important this is to the future of the U.S. high-tech industry."

The playbook states: "By the time they enter college, U.S. students are already at a considerable disadvantage to develop the knowledge and skills required in a globally competitive science and engineering workforce."

The industry should work with recipients of grants from the U.S. Department of Education's Math and Science Partnership program, the EIA says. The involvement of tech firms would produce better curriculum, and would ensure that graduates have the necessary skills in an increasingly competitive workforce.

The organization also calls for tax credits for businesses that directly contribute to educational endeavors that promote science and technology learning.

Congress should "require significant changes to the No Child Left Behind Act," as a first step in improving educational endeavors, the group adds. The recommendations also stress the need for increased trade opportunities and intellectual property protection.

"The global marketplace is part of the solution, not part of the problem," McCurdy says. "We need to make sure we have adequate enforcement activities and open-market activities."

A decade ago, some analysts predicted that Japan would economically destroy the U.S., notes Representative Adam Smith (D-Washington). "That didn't happen," Smith says. "This is all about jobs and economic growth."

Protecting assets

The EIA urges that presidential benchmarks be set to monitor progress in trade disputes. The industry seeks a set of trade goals or priorities to detect trade violations and to gauge how they are being handled.

Further, the playbook argues that Congress should take more aggressive action using the World Trade Organization's legal system, especially when it comes to compliance problems in China.

Struble says that the international market enabled his company to create a product -- digital radio -- in the U.S., manufacture it abroad, and sell it to the world. He cautions that while the business opportunity is exceptional, the need for legal protection of intellectual assets is equally great.

"We have 100 patents, which we spent US$150 million to acquire," Struble says. "Intellectual property is a very important issue to us."

Increased workforce assistance and training programs, a reformed visa and immigration policy, and better research and development are also essential to ensuring U.S. leadership in innovative technology, according to the EIA.

Emily Kumler writes for the Medill News Service.

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