Alaska can lead high-tech fields with right kind of support now 

By SKIP NELSON and DOUG JOHNSON in the Anchorage Daily News: The term “high tech industry” often conjures up visions of sandal-clad 20-somethings clacking away on laptops in Silicon Valley computer companies. Yet right here in Alaska, a growing number of cutting-edge companies are pushing technological frontiers to create the jobs of the future and respond to crucial Alaska needs.

That’s why we were so pleased to boast about Alaska in a standing-room-only meeting in Washington, D.C., last week attended by some of the nation’s leading high-tech business executives and two dozen United States senators. Convened by our own Sen. Mark Begich, the meeting was designed to discuss ways to regain America’s leadership role in developing new technologies.

Among those participating were Cisco CEO John Chambers; John Doerr, who helped invent the 8080 8-bit microprocessor at Intel; and Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel. Scores of other high-tech business executives lined a wood-paneled room in the U.S. Capitol for a lively conversation with senators.

The meeting was assembled by the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, chaired by Sen. Begich, to connect business leaders and senators for frank discussions about necessary changes in national policy to improve our overall business climate.

Our message was simple: America is losing its ability to “out-innovate” countries like China and India, in part, because of misguided federal policies and budget priorities and poor preparation of young Americans for future technology-based jobs. The long-term implications are dangerous for Alaska and our nation.

We both have struggled against enormous odds to capitalize on Alaska’s unique opportunities to develop our high-technology companies. We’re way outside the Washington Beltway and don’t have lobbyists. Unlike the “technological ant farms” of Phoenix or San Jose, Alaska has a smaller labor pool and a narrower range of supporting industries.

But decision-makers in Washington seem to recognize the technology we develop in Alaska has a unique quality and credibility that Outside companies can’t ever claim. They know that if it works in Alaska, it’ll work anywhere. Read more

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