By Chelsea McCullough
There are pros and cons to being number one. On the one hand, you enjoy the benefits of first position and the glory in knowing you worked hard to get there. On the other hand, your competition is hot on your heels, ready to topple you at any moment. Either way, at number one, you cannot be complacent.
“It’s tough to topple Texas,” claimed Area Development Magazine which recently named Texas as the top state for doing business in its survey, citing its diverse economy, skilled workforce, friendly tax structure, and policies committed to a fair legal system and economic development.
Clearly, Texas’ place at the top is no coincidence. In Gov. Rick Perry’s response to the accolades, he said, “As a state, we will remain committed to upholding the pillars to our success, including low taxes, restrained spending, reasonable regulations and a fair legal system, all of which have made Texas the best state in the nation to live, work, raise a family and start a business.”
In the quest to cultivate a business-friendly environment, Texas has deployed such initiatives as the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, which invested $200 million in attracting high-tech jobs and supporting 150 early stage startups across the state. Additionally, state policymakers have supported a manufacturing sales tax exemption to compete for the expansion and relocation of key industries including the high-tech sector. Texas public officials have rightly recognized that the next big wave of growth will come from well-established technology companies and start-ups.
Texas can boast about large technology companies like Dell and AT&T that call Texas home and the impressive startups launching in Dallas’ “Silicon Prairie” and Austin’s “Silicon Hills.” But given the velocity of the 21st century economy, there is no time to rest. In order for businesses to continue to grow, they will increasingly rely on robust, high-speed communications networks. It goes without saying – if businesses don’t have the infrastructure and tools they need to succeed, they will go elsewhere.
The communications industry is evolving at a lightning-fast pace to meet existing consumer demand, while also looking ahead to the next big thing. It takes constant effort to manage the surging demand from consumers to connect and do just about everything online. The number of networked devices is projected to reach three billion in the U.S. by 2016, according to Mobile Future, as consumers turn to the computers in their pockets, briefcases and backpacks to download, stream and click into every aspect of their daily lives.
This means more traffic (voice, video, data) is traveling to more destinations than ever before and it’s getting there via next generation networks. Modern wireless and wireline networks are based on the Internet Protocol (IP), which is the standard protocol for sending data packets over the Web. Smartphones and tablets rely on IP-based networks because they are fast and can handle massive amounts of data traffic. Businesses and consumers depend on and demand increased access to and performance of next generation networks in order to connect, innovate, and compete.
Supporting the growth of entrepreneurial businesses while giving consumers more of what they want is the key to staying at the top of a competitive national and global economy. Private investment is needed to deliver the best, fastest networks and is also a forceful economic engine. When businesses grow, people get to work. Building next generation networks is projected to create around 231,000 U.S. jobs in 2012, according to economists Robert Shapiro and Kevin Hassett.
Our policies and regulatory system cannot fall behind the pace of innovation. In the near term, elected officials, the tech and business communities and the public need to know about what needs to happen to encourage investment and growth in the technology sector and keep Texas at number one. We need to foster government policies that encourage private carriers to invest the billions of dollars of investment to upgrade 21st Century digital communications and modernize regulations that maintain a free Internet, support innovation, develop an educated workforce and create opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Texas has proved it knows how to get to the top – now we just need to strengthen Texas for the future so we stay there.
Chelsea McCullough is Executive Director of Texans for Economic Progress (TEP), an Austin-based, non-profit advocacy group that monitors the competitive process in key sectors of the Texas economy.
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