A year after President Obama called for the United States to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build” the rest of the world in his 2011 State of the Union speech, the tech industry sees more to be done to get the economy back on track.
On the top of many companies’ lists are issues like research and development tax credits, competitive tax reform, cloud computing, cybersecurity, spectrum, privacy, and intellectual property and copyright protection.
In his 2011 speech to Congress, Obama pointed to technology as key to reinvigorating American innovation. “In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It is how we make our living,” Obama said, citing Google and Facebook by name.
A year later, many tech industry leaders are bracing for continued ups and downs in the economy.
“The two steps forward, one step backward pattern experienced during much of 2011 has conditioned many businesses to expect a dose of bad news with any good news,” said Tim Herbert, vice president of the IT trade group CompTIA. “Among IT firms, concerns about weak consumer and corporate demand; downward pressure on margins; access to capital; and government regulation continue to weigh on business confidence.”
While the tech industry got great play in last year’s State of the Union, most are realistic about Tuesday’s speech.
“We were pretty spoiled last year, but we’re not expecting as much focus this year,” said Kevin Richards, TechAmerica’s senior vice president for federal government affairs.
Still, progress on trade agreements and cloud computing issues over the past year give reason to hope, he said.
“In 2011 the president laid out a pretty good vision and we hope that he continues to follow through,” Richards said. “We are optimistic and hopeful that the president’s speech tonight can act as an impetus to work on some bipartisan issues.”
On Tuesday, CompTIA released its IT Industry Outlook 2012, which expressed “tempered optimism” about the coming year.
Based on a survey of 500 IT executives, the study projected the worldwide IT industry to grow about 4.5 percent in 2012, with upside potential of 7.6 percent.
CompTIA President Todd Thibodeaux called on Congress and Obama to come to an agreement to extend the payroll-tax holiday, and to recognize the impact that IT companies can have on the larger economy by preparing an educated workforce.
“At a time when many Americans are struggling to find jobs, there are more than 300,000 IT and IT-related jobs that are presently unfilled,” Thibodeaux said in a statement. “As a country, we need to do a better job of getting educators on the same page as employers so that Americans are career-ready and able to thrive in the information technology field.”
Other groups, such as the Download Fairness Coalition, which includes companies like Amazon, Apple, and Verizon, urged Obama to work toward clearer tax rules for online goods and services.
“Our nation’s economic growth depends on a stable business environment to promote the growth of new and innovative technologies like digital goods and services, which have continued to see positive growth despite the hard economy,” the group said in a statement. “The lack of federal guidance regarding the taxation of digital downloads, [and] overlapping and confusing tax jurisdictions threaten to stall this important industry.”
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who cochairs the Congressional High Tech Caucus, said tech issues should be an area that both parties can work on.
"Jobs are the top priority, and our high tech industry is one of our biggest job creators,” said McCaul, who plans to sit with Caucus Cochair Doris Matsui, D-Calif., during Tuesday’s speech. “.... Even in a highly polarized political environment, we intend to put the issues most important to America's innovators ahead of any political agenda."