Saturday, July 15, 2017 | 2 a.m.
State-level legislation impacts on our nation’s global competitiveness. And governors play a key role in determining whether their states welcome the opportunities that technology brings — or reject them.
This is why Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval’s chairmanship of the National Governors Association, which formally begins today, is vital to American competitiveness and innovation.
In six years as Nevada’s governor, Sandoval has embraced disruption across all sectors of the tech economy, including energy and transportation. His experience makes him well-prepared to make the most of his upcoming yearlong term as chair of the NGA.
Nevada’s business-friendly tax laws have prompted large tech companies to invest in the state. In the last year alone, Google bought more than 1,000 acres at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center for more than $29 million; Apple pledged to increase the size of its data center in the Reno area, making an investment of $1 billion in the state that will create hundreds of jobs; and Amazon built an 800,000 square-foot fulfillment center in North Las Vegas, adding hundreds of new jobs to the state.
Moreover, Sandoval has used his final term in office specifically to address Nevada’s future in technology. Currently, Nevada grants only 9.5 college degrees in STEM subjects for every 1,000 students — a number far lower than the national average of 20.8 for every 1,000 and one that will not be sustainable in the new, tech-savvy job market of the future. STEM degrees are one of 10 factors taken into account in the Consumer Technology Association’s Innovation Scorecard, an annual ranking of a state’s openness to innovation. While Nevada earns high marks for fast internet speeds and anti-discrimination LGBTQ laws that make it easier for the state to attract top talent, STEM degrees is an area that needs improvement and will ultimately help lift the state’s overall ranking.
Sandoval is well aware of this, and has taken steps to help his state change course. In his most recent State of the State address, he announced his intention to allocate permanent funding to the Office of Workforce Innovation. He also revealed a plan to build a College of Engineering at UNR and requested public funding for half of the project. And in March, the Office of Science, Innovation and Technology awarded a $1 million grant to various STEM training programs across the state.
Each NGA chair is given a year to push a specific initiative, and Sandoval has chosen to push innovation. His strategy includes supporting and incentivizing technology transformation, educating citizens about benefits and risks, modernizing policy and regulatory processes, preparing the workforce and protecting systems from cyberthreats. He also intends to emphasize energy and transportation development.
CTA is thrilled at the prospect of having Gov. Sandoval as the chair of the NGA. Las Vegas is the home of CES — The Global Stage for Innovation — each year, and Sandoval, a tech enthusiast and avid Fitbit user, has attended and understands the power and importance of the tech industry for economic growth and national competitiveness. We’re excited to see him position Nevada as a leader, pushing for more states across the country to embrace innovation.
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association.