The Texas Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness wrapped up their work last week after hearing testimony from over 30 witnesses about how to drive Texas job growth in the years and decades ahead. We all know the Alamo was the battleground for Texas independence; during that battle, Colonel William Travis famously hung a sign on a cannon that challenged the enemy to “come and take it.” Okay, so we lost that bottle but endured to win the war. Texas has led the country in job creation for much of the last two decades, and judging by the testimony, Texas leaders are not ready to cede that leadership role. Witnesses included top Texas leaders from industries like oil and gas, utilities, transportation, technology, higher education, as well as our elected leadership and state officials. The overriding sentiment with global leadership at stake, education and workforce development are more critical than other. The Texas 2050 Coalition of major Texas business groups and chambers of commerce have been working closely with the committee and offer the following recommendations: align public education with the workforce needed of Texas employers, first and foremost. We must provide students with multiple pathways to participate in a modern and evolving Texas economy, including high growth STEM areas, graduate careers, and college readiness programs.
Also, develop a sustainable pipeline of talent and expand access to computer science skills in K through 12 including training teachers in these areas. Secondly, maintain a rational tax system. Our lack of a personal income tax, one of only seven states without one is a positive for entrepreneurial investment, small business, corporate expansions and re-locations, but our heavy reliance on property and sales taxes penalizes capital and pension investment, making Texas a higher business tax cost state than our competitors. Incentive programs like property tax abatements and the enterprise fund are important to attract major job projects. Finally, to remain competitive, we need to increase and improve our infrastructure capacity, roads, energy, water, and broadband to pave the way for smart cities and a growing population. That includes supporting public-private partnerships to add infrastructure capacity more quickly, and encourage state and regional investment in key infrastructure for the 21st century, facilitating access to talent, technology, capital, and know-how.
The committee is expected to issue their report in early January. Texas’s success in economic development did not happen by accident, and now is not the time to retrench when it comes to economic growth. For the last two decades, Texas lawmakers have created a policy and a regulatory climate built for competition and growth, and in turn the entrepreneurial spirit of our innovators has flourished. As the committee heard from citizens across the state, if Texas can strike a balance between business and policy and encourages innovation and fosters respect, it will continue to lead the country in job creation and quality of life.
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Craig Casselberry is founder and president of Quorum Public Affairs, Inc. and a 20-year veteran of Texas politics. As president of Quorum Public Affairs, Casselberry has managed more than 100 strategic communications projects, issue coalitions, and federal, state and local public policy campaigns for corporate clients of all sizes. You can learn more about Craig HERE.