Q. Technology in Austin, as in all major hubs of innovation in the country, has a pipeline problem when it comes to filling jobs. There are more jobs in the Science, Technology Engineering and Math fields open than there are qualified applicants. What steps can you take, as Mayor, to ensure that the Austin workforce can meet the needs of the growing technology industry?
A. We need to ensure the specific needs of tech and life sciences job creators, educators, and workers are aligned. The recently announced Austin Tech Partnership between the City and the Austin Tech Council will benchmark efforts to better understand and support our unique talent landscape.
Those benchmarks will help us establish priorities in the near term like supporting industry outreach and recruiting, in the mid-term including education workforce training programs with ACC and alternative providers like Maker Square, and long term including increased industry participation in the many regional STEM programs and efforts to prepare all Austinites to participate in the digital economy.
We have recently added to the city’s economic development policy that require companies moving to Austin to integrate STEM programs within their companies and partner with our local schools. This along with the above mentioned suggestion could drastically improve our pipeline of workforce members and I am committed to doing all I can as Mayor to foster even stronger goals and initiatives.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
Q. Studies have shown that diversity is a key to success in the technology industry and business in general. How, as Mayor, would you specifically work to nurture diversity in the tech sector to ensure more opportunities for minorities and women?
A. This has been and will remain a priority. As Mayor, I’ll continue existing City Digital Inclusion efforts to ensure all members of the Austin community can access and participate in the digital economy. In addition, Austin tech needs digital creatives to fill the 9000 tech jobs we see coming by 2017. Integration of the tech community into City efforts and the programs offered by longtime regional stakeholders like Skillpoint Alliance and Girlstart are key to ensuring all Austinites have the opportunity to participate in a 21st Century economy.
Entrepreneur support groups like Women@Austin and the mentor structures leveraged by local startup incubators and accelerators are becoming real forces in our community. I’d like to see those models expanded to raise awareness of the entrepreneurial potential of all Austinites. We must also engage further with our local minority chambers such as the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber, Austin Black Chamber and others to build stronger partnerships and foster further opportunities.
Q. Austin is getting the Dell Medical School, which will act as a catalyst in helping to develop the area’s life sciences industry. What do you think the City of Austin needs to do to support and nurture this emerging industry?
A. There’s no doubt that the Dell Medical School is going to impact our life sciences sector along with the rest of our community. UT, the State, the City, and the tech industry must work together to ensure that we’re able to compete with efforts in Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas to sustain healthy life sciences ecosystems.
The medical school is a unique opportunity to integrate tech and the larger community and I look forward to being an integral part of this amazing transformation within our community. As Mayor, I will ensure that our city is intimately involved and all stakeholders have ample opportunity to participate and help us develop best practices and sustainable policies.
Q. What is your view on providing incentives to tech companies to locate or expand in Austin?
A. Incentives are important to growing Austin’s business climate. In the past, we’ve seen incentives provided to bring in large brands from out of state. I think this is a great idea but it has to be balanced with the impact of those arrivals on regional talent, housing, and traffic infrastructures.
I have proposed a reemphasis on incentivizing local mid-size and small businesses to ensure all Austin entrepreneurs are able to add critical support to – and participate in the success of – Austin’s tech economy. We have the talent, entrepreneurship, education and vision right here in our own community to take Austin to the highest level possible in creating good paying, long term, sustainable jobs.