Innovation is often tough to define and even tougher to produce, but amid all the fiscal doom and gloom, technology companies still say they have the right stuff to get the U.S. economy back on track.
Representatives from Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, AT&T, Accenture, Siemens, and other companies joined President Obama at an event on Friday to announce new efforts to help military veterans find jobs.
“Today’s announcement brings people, companies, and agencies together to increase the impact we can have on helping the job situation,” Curt Kolcun, Microsoft’s vice president for the U.S. public sector, said in a telephone interview afterward. Microsoft pledged to provide 10,000 technology training and certification packages to veterans.
“All jobs require some kind of tech skills … and I think this is an opportunity relative to tech jobs in the United States,” Kolcun said.
AT&T, for example, launched two new online programs designed to help veterans transfer their military skills to jobs at the wireless company.
Under political pressure to jumpstart the economy, Obama has said that Americans live in a “fundamentally different” world than previous generations, and argued that investment in high-tech programs is key to economic growth.
But despite all the rhetoric, funding for research, development, and education is often included in the discretionary spending cuts that lawmakers at all levels of government are looking at.
With the debt-limit debate over for the moment, the tech industry is looking ahead to the so-called congressional super committee tasked with reducing government spending.
“The committee has a unique opportunity to make recommendations that could encourage private-sector investment in innovation and stimulate job growth and productivity today and far into the future,” TechAmerica President Phil Bond said on Tuesday. He said lawmakers should remember that the technology sector is “one of the few areas of the economy that is currently expanding and is leading the way to fiscal recovery.”
Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, said budget cuts may backfire.
“The problem for the U.S. is not that the tech and innovation sectors aren’t creating jobs,” he said. “It’s that our competitive position in the world is not very good. We’re not going to bring back prosperity through austerity.”
Instead, Atkinson said, American lawmakers need to aggressively help businesses compete in a global marketplace.
Atkinson is not alone. Technology companies and industry groups continue to call for government investment while sparing them from burdensome taxes or regulations.
“We need an innovation-friendly tax code that incentivizes investment in U.S. jobs and companies in order to better compete globally,” said Bond. “Continued investment in technology, along with a sustained federal IT budget, is necessary to create government efficiencies, cost-savings, and support important basic research and development so we can compete in a 21st-century economy.”
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