Kilberg: Tech Industry Will Lead U.S. Out of Crisis

Posted May 14, 2009 at 2:12pm

From people working in laboratories to people working in their garages, the technology industry has been the beneficiary of innovators. It is this innovation that has pushed us into the 21st century and will sustain us through the next decade, as uncertain as times are now. While other industries languish, technology remains on the cutting edge. The reasons? Bright, trained, educated workers who know how to innovate. Technology is poised to help lead us out of the recession.

Today the American technology worker is a part of a vibrant industry that is poised to grow in ways never dreamed of a generation ago. At the Northern Virginia Technology Council, we represent a cross-section of these technology workers — roughly 1,025 tech companies comprising nearly 200,000 employees.

We have discovered over the past 16 years that, in many ways, the technology corridor in Northern Virginia is a microcosm for tech centers across the country. In Northern Virginia, we have the additional advantage of the federal government being right in our backyard, continuing to award contracts to many of our member companies and proving to be a reliable and trusted business partner for our industry.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has been named by Forbes magazine as the best state in which to do business. We have a superb quality of life, a highly educated work force, excellent schools and universities, a vital global presence, vibrant cultural institutions, and an abundance of recreational activities and parks. Quite simply, our state is a prime place to live, work and raise a family.

Technology is a very mobile industry — we ramp up and down with relative ease, with the ability to try things that are new and different. Our work force is diverse, with expertise in programming, systems development and integration, engineering, telecommunications, biotechnology and the sciences, mathematics, aerospace and many other disciplines that will serve as our foundation for inventing America’s future.

What’s important is that we continue to innovate even during a bad economy and difficult recession. Continuous advancements in technology allow for breakthroughs year after year in areas like cybersecurity, cloud computing, health information technology, data storage, broadband and Web 2.0 applications. Our industry at large is host to an “excitement factor— that no other industry can possess — social media as an epicenter of buzz and entrepreneurship.

People who are starting businesses like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace are the innovators the world looks up to. We don’t yet know what the next hot social networking site will be, but we can promise it will capture the imagination of the world.

We recognize that the presence of world-class schools is important to the sustainability and growth of any technology center. Certainly, our research universities, four-year educational institutions and community college systems do a tremendous amount of heavy lifting when it comes to preparing, equipping and upgrading our regional technology work force of today and tomorrow. It is crucial to our global competitiveness that the funding of our colleges and universities is a national priority. After all, our schools boast the best and brightest from around the world.

Green technology and energy is one of the areas that will provide technology-based job growth. From greening data centers and buildings to constructing energy-efficient televisions and computers, green technology is not only safe for the environment but can reinvent regions in our country that are desperate for decent-paying jobs.

It is clear that leaders in the public and private sectors are increasingly looking to leverage technology to address myriad societal challenges, including those related to infrastructure, health care, education and energy. We are proud to have a highly educated, highly skilled work force in an industry that pays well above the nation’s average salaries. We look forward to developments to come and believe technology will be a major factor in leading us out of the recession.

Bobbie Kilberg is president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Technology Council.