Tech Trade Group: Stimulus Money Is Major Focus

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The number-one government goal of trade group TechAmerica in the coming year is assisting federal and state governments in how to wisely spend money from the US$787 billion economic stimulus package, officials there said.

TechAmerica, formed from the merger of four other tech trade groups, feels a responsibility to make the tech portions of the stimulus package successful, said CEO Christopher Hansen. The 1,500-member TechAmerica came out of the merger of AeA, the Information Technology Association of America and two other tech trade groups.

The stimulus package, pushed by U.S. President Barack Obama, includes about $50 billion in direct spending by the U.S. government, including $19 billion for health IT projects, $7.2 billion for broadband deployment and $4.5 billion for smart energy grid projects. TechAmerica is offering its advice to state governments, which much of the money will flow through, on how to most efficiently spend the money, said Roxanne Gould, TechAmerica's senior vice president for state government affairs.

For example, TechAmerica is working with Florida's state government to extend fiber broadband networks to schools currently using dial-up, she said.

While many people watching the stimulus package have called on the government to get the money out as quickly as possible in the hope of creating jobs, TechAmerica has a longer view, Gould said. "Our mantra has really been that, even if used in the next year or two, we really need to focus on using these dollars to benefit our communities for the next decades," she said.

Obama outlined three major policy focuses in a Feb. 24 address to Congress: energy, education and health care. Even beyond the stimulus package, tech will play a major role in each of those areas, Hansen said.

"There is a confluence of interest between the president and this association in terms of using technology to help this country really get our economy out of the doldrums," Hansen added. "Because of that, we think there is a real [tech industry] responsibility ... for that being successful."

In addition to working on stimulus-package spending, TechAmerica is working to pull together a coalition of companies and trade groups to push for a larger tech and innovation agenda, Hansen said. Among the top priorities in the Innovation Now agenda are pushing green technology and health IT, patent reform, allowing foreign workers to stay in the U.S. and deploying broadband across the U.S., he said.

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