Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Oct/Nov 08)
The Texas economy is the world's 12th-largest, according to Susan Combs, the state's comptroller of public accounts. And the expansion continues. Combs cites that in fiscal 2008, Texas' gross state product grew by 2.9 percent, compared to a 2.7 percent increase for the national economy. In the 12 months ending in August 2008, Texas gained almost 252,000 jobs, more than the next 14 top job growth states combined. While July to August witnessed a loss of 84,000 jobs for the United States, Texas gained 6,700 jobs during the same period.
"Recently, a CNBC poll of America's Top States for Business ranked us number one overall in 2008, up from second place the previous year," says Aaron Demerson, executive director of the Office of the Governor of Texas, Division of Economic Development and Tourism. "Fortune magazine recently announced that we are number one on their list for the most Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 corporate headquarters."
The Lone Star state is targeting six growth industries: aerospace and defense, energy/alternative energy, advanced technology and manufacturing (including nanotech semiconductors and automotive), biotechnology and life sciences, information and computer technology, petroleum and chemical products.
For the legislative session that begins in 2009, "the governor wants to retain a business-friendly climate," says Demerson. To formulate effective strategies, a report from the Governor's Competitive Council "gives us a blueprint for proceeding ahead for the future, concentrated on business development efforts and work force, with a special focus on energy options as well."
Demerson says the state offers legislative tools such as the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) and the Emerging Technology Fund (ETF). The TEF, the largest "deal-closing" fund of its kind in the nation, has brought more than 51,000 jobs to the state since its inception in 2003, generating more than $13.7 billion in capital investment. Funds are earmarked for a variety of economic development projects, including infrastructure development, community development, job training programs, and business incentives. For calendar year 2008 to date, the program has created over 2,127 new jobs and has spurred over $320.3 million in capital investment, excluding projects currently in the contracting phase.
The ETF was created by the Texas Legislature in 2005 to spur new research, development, and commercialization. ETF grants are awarded in three areas: Research Superiority Acquisition funds for recruitment of research talent to higher education institutions; Commercialization Awards to help companies take ideas from concept through development and to the marketplace; and Matching Awards to create public-private partnerships that leverage the strengths of universities, federal government grant programs, and industry. "In calendar year 2008 the ETF invested $10.38 million in 14 early-stage technology companies, leveraging $3.8 million in matching funds, and is currently in the process of contracting to recruit two top research teams to our universities," says Demerson.