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Texas Today 2011: The Lone Star State Leads U.S. Economic Recovery

The Lone Star State has galloped out of recession and is leading the nation in economic growth.

March 2011
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Renewable Energy
Texas has been the nation's top wind producer for the past five years, according to the American Wind Energy Association. In 2010, Texas added 9,707 MW of new capacity. (Iowa, the second-closest state, only added 3,670 MW.) If Texas were a nation, it would rank sixth in the world for installed wind power capacity. Recent state legislation has also laid the groundwork for large transmission lines, which will further accelerate in-state wind power use.

Solar power is also rising, especially in Central Texas. "For example, Austin has a renewable energy RFP (request for proposal) out right now that is calling for 200 MW of renewable energy," says Angelos Angelou, principal with Angelou Economics, a technology-based economic development and site selection firm in Austin. "Supported by modern infrastructure and smart grid technologies, Central Texas is emerging as a hotbed for solar energy and other alternative technologies."

Responding to this strong demand, SolarBridge Technologies, a leading developer of solar industry power conversion products, expanded into a new Austin location in August 2010 that more than triples its space. Additional lab space for research and development was needed after the company secured $15 million in series B funding, which was preceded by $1.5 million of support from TETF.

"SolarBridge's expansion reflects the growth of Austin's solar industry and clean tech as a whole," said Susan Davenport, vice president of business, retention, and expansion for the Austin Chamber of Commerce. "We hope their success will encourage other solar and renewable energy companies to build their businesses in Austin."

Recognizing these advantages, SunPower Corporation, a manufacturer of high-performance solar technology solutions, recently decided to build a new, $10 million operations center in Austin. The project, which will create 450 jobs, will benefit from city incentives and a $2.5 million TEF grant.

"Texas has great potential to become a significant solar market," says SunPower CEO Tom Werner. "If policies creating a stable solar market across Texas are enacted, this commitment by SunPower could be the start of significantly more investment and job creation in the state by the rapidly growing solar industry."

Life Sciences/Biotechnology
Texas is home to more than 4,000 biotechnology, biomedical research, and medical manufacturing companies, as well as world-class universities and research facilities. These companies and institutions employ more than 100,000 workers at an average annual salary of over $67,300. The state's biotechnology marketplace is estimated to have an annual state economic impact of $75 billion, according to a 2009 Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute report.

Numerous global biotech and pharmaceutical companies have operations in Texas, with key clusters in Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio. TETF and TEF have made possible many of the state's early-stage biotech achievements: combined TETF-TEF funding for biotech projects through March 2010 totaled over $250 million.

This dedication to state innovation is having a big impact. Texas showed a 35 percent increase in biotech-related facilities and an 11 percent increase in total bioscience employment, according to the 2010 Battelle/BIO State Bioscience Initiatives report.

Austin is particularly enjoying a surge in biotech and medical device research and development. Newcomer XBiotech, a fully integrated biopharmaceutical company, established its Austin headquarters last year. "What has helped many local companies succeed is funding from TETF, as well as Emergent Technologies, an Austin-based venture capital/private equity firm that commercializes technologies from universities," Angelou says.

The state continues to finance promising projects through TEF and TETF. Houston-based RadioMedix was recently awarded $2.8 million for developing a new process to manufacture radiopharmaceuticals, tracers used to diagnose and treat diseases with positron emission tomography. The company is collaborating with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to develop this technology. BD, a global medical technology company, recently received $1.56 million from TEF to establish its worldwide professional services headquarters in San Antonio. This investment will create 296 jobs and generate $6.35 million in capital investment.

"San Antonio met all of the criteria that we were seeking in order to meet our business requirements," says BD Chairman and CEO Edward J. Ludwig. "The excellent pool of potential employees and skilled labor, along with proximity to academic institutions, were significant draws, as well as the support we received from local officials and the Texas Enterprise Fund."