Business, Education and Government Leaders Gather for Summit on Competitiveness

Posted: December 6, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Daniel Walsch

Corporate leaders and university presidents from across the country, including George Mason President Alan Merten, will meet with top administration officials in Washington, D.C., today to sound the alarm on threats to America’s economic leadership.

Participants at the “National Summit on Competitiveness: Investing in U.S. Innovation” will press the administration for greater federal investment in research, stronger policies that make science and mathematics education a higher priority and immigration reform to keep highly skilled workers in the United States. The daylong summit is being held at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Chaired by Richard K. Templeton, president and CEO of Texas Instruments, and James Berges, retired president of Emerson, the summit will open with a public session where participants will discuss the competitiveness challenges their companies face in an era of increased globalization.

Small, private breakout sessions will follow, allowing participants to engage directly with administration officials to discuss specific policy options related to maintaining and improving U.S. capabilities in research and education.

Margaret Spellings, U.S. secretary of education; Elaine Chao, U.S. secretary of labor; Carlos Gutierrez, U.S. secretary of commerce; Samuel Bodman, U.S. secretary of energy; Arden Bement, director, National Science Foundation; and David Sampson, U.S. deputy secretary of commerce, will participate in the private sessions.

“We are at crossroads. A number of thoughtful, well-established institutions, both business and academic, have examined the problems, identified disturbing trends and have sounded an alarm. Now it’s time to act,” says Templeton.

“The level and caliber of the people who have gathered today demonstrate the concern that business leaders feel about these issues. Frank and open discussion can help drive change. Some say globalization is a race to the bottom. We say it’s a race to the top. It’s a more competitive world, but America has the resources and the know-how to continue to lead. The question is whether we’ll choose the right path.”

The “Statement of the National Summit on Competitiveness: Investing in U.S. Innovation” details recommendations that reflect recent high-profile reports from the business community, educators and the National Academy of Sciences that underscore the challenges to continued U.S. economic leadership. The statement recommends focusing on revitalizing fundamental research, expanding the innovation talent pool in the United States and leading the world in development and deployment of advanced technologies.

“Many of our companies are very concerned about filling the holes that are being left by retiring baby-boomers—engineers, scientists and other highly skilled workers,” says Berges.

“These are very good jobs, yet the best and the brightest in our country are not pursuing careers which use applications of math and science. Business and government must be partners in this effort, and we need to use our resources to stimulate the desire in our young people to pursue these very exciting careers, which often pay higher salaries than jobs in other industries.”

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice and Commerce, initiated the summit, which was funded by Congress last year. He will participate, along with Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), House Science Committee chair, and Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), chair of the House Science Subcommittee on Environment, Technology and Standards.

Other participants include Dana Mead, retired CEO of Tenneco and chair of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Board of Trustees, who will moderate the opening plenary session; and John Engler, former governor of Michigan and now president of the National Association of Manufacturers, who will provide welcoming remarks.

The steering committee for the summit includes AeA, Business Roundtable, Council on Competitiveness, National Association of Manufacturers, Northern Virginia Technology Council and George Mason University.

For more information, see the National Summit on Competitiveness web site.

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