Opinion

High-Tech Sectors Will Power U.S. Economic Recovery From the Ground Up

From online education and work platforms to no-contact food delivery services and telehealth appointments, technology is the foundation of many of the solutions keeping people afloat during this unprecedented health pandemic. As state and national leaders work to restart our country’s struggling economy, they would do well to take note of the indispensable role that technology and the tech sector play in our lives now – and the concrete solutions it provides for long-term economic recovery. 

The technology industry is uniquely positioned to lead the repowering of our economy because it already enables tens of millions of Americans to work, learn, and connect. What’s more – far from being concentrated in a few tech hubs around the nation, the technology industry is present in all communities. The average U.S. congressional district now has about 400 high-tech startups employing around 3,400 workers in industries ranging from pharmaceuticals and medicines to semiconductor machinery, computers and electronics, aerospace, software, data processing, and computer system design. 

And those startups have the larger tech ecosystem to thank for everything from the computer-aided design software they use to create innovative new products to the cloud storage and data-processing they leverage to move more quickly and lower their overhead costs. In short: Technology is important to everyone – not just to the firms that produce it, but to the successes of thousands of other companies across all states and local economies. 

To help policymakers appreciate how tech innovation is making an outsized economic contribution to the U.S. economy, a new report from the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) provides a statistical portrait of the impact of the high-tech industry down to the congressional district level. The report draws on 24 indicators of the innovation economy to paint statistical portraits of all 50 states and 435 U.S. congressional districts, as well as the District of Columbia. The indicators include measures of innovative vitality in three main areas: exports of high-tech goods and services, including manufacturing and IT services; education and skills; and high-tech startup activity and public funding for research and development.

The report’s snapshot of state and congressional district rankings sheds light on just how widely diffused and integral the country’s innovation-driven, high-tech economy is. For example: 

  • High-tech sectors fuel the local economies of most congressional districts, producing 28 percent of all manufacturing exports. 
  • More than half of all congressional districts received at least $50 million in federal research and development funding in the last two fiscal years. 
  • Texas and Florida are home to four times more high-tech startups than the U.S. state average. 
  • Startups make up 16 percent of high-tech employment in Alabama – the highest share in the country.

But here’s the thing: High-tech innovation — and the high-growth, high-wage jobs that come with it — is not guaranteed. For U.S. high-tech innovation to truly thrive in the years to come, policymakers must create and sustain an environment in which innovative companies can grow and expand. This report points out four inputs necessary for high-tech innovation: more widespread STEM education resources; increased federal investments in R&D; access to digital-age infrastructure, such as broadband; and global market access. America’s position in the global, 21st-century economy hinges on policymakers from all areas recognizing and spurring further investment in high-tech innovation.

The confluence of a global health and economic crisis put us in a unique moment. But there is an opportunity to emerge stronger. Every state and congressional district in the United States has a stake in continuing to strengthen the foundations of the innovation-driven, high-tech economy. It is the surest way to boost U.S. competitiveness, create good jobs and raise people’s living standards. And strengthening technology in America will also make the economy and society more resilient, creating opportunities for all. 

 

Jason Oxman is the president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council.

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