Areas of Interest
Technology continues to transform our economy. That is why I have worked to strengthen Nevada’s high-tech sector by providing our students with the skills they need to succeed in high-tech industries. I have also been an ardent supporter of the research and development tax credit and support making it permanent. Developers of emerging technologies often need unique incentives in order to make new technologies commercially viable. I am proud to have been honored by organizations such as the Information Technology Industry Council and TechNet for my efforts to expand the innovation economy in Nevada and throughout the nation. In order to compete for the jobs of the 21st Century, we must maintain our nation’s competitiveness to keep our country at the forefront of technology and innovation.
Nevada’s innovative business communities and close proximity to major markets make our state an attractive location for high-tech businesses. Both Reno and Las Vegas have emerged as hubs for high-tech companies that support over 25,000 jobs throughout the state. To support this growing sector of our economy, I have worked to garner federal support for initiatives to further expand Nevada’s high-tech sector. For example, Varian, a producer of high-energy scanning systems, opened a manufacturing plant in Southern Nevada to build scanning systems for the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, General Electric’s Minden plant in Northern Nevada is producing advanced monitoring systems, sensors, and diagnostic equipment important to an array of technologically advanced machinery.
While I am proud of Nevada’s efforts to attract new high-tech businesses, we must also ensure that Nevadans can take advantage of these new job opportunities. I directed funding to establish the Nevada Center on Entrepreneurship and Technology (NCET). Since 2007, NCET has successfully operated in Nevada as an independent, non-profit organization educating and training hundreds of entrepreneurs. Working with local economic development officials, NCET co-hosts an annual expo-conference dozens of CEOs from innovative early stage companies, local small business leaders, 100 venture capitalists and “angel” investors, leading professional service providers, and entrepreneurship public policy advocates. On the national level, I have also supported legislation to provide tax incentives for businesses that train workers here in America and provide scholarships for technical training. Such initiatives will not only strengthen the American workforce but also cement America’s global leadership in the high-tech industry.
I am also a longtime supporter of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which represent the federal government’s largest small business research and development programs. Small businesses play a key role in spurring innovation and the SBIR and STTR programs provide these businesses with the capital they need to develop the next great technological advancement, all while creating good quality, high-paying jobs for Nevadans. After several months of obstruction, I was pleased to pass a long-term reauthorization of these valuable initiatives. I will continue to support programs and policies that help Nevada’s high-tech businesses stay on the cutting edge of technology.
Action is also needed to keep Nevada’s clean energy economy growing so we can become the central hub of clean energy—the global growth industry of the 21st Century. I will continue to support policies that will drive immediate investment in Nevada’s clean energy future and then Nevada must have a coherent strategy to attract new industries, to forge regional and national alliances, to create markets for our products and renewable power, and to develop our human resources and capacity for innovation.
We must ensure that our nation’s students and teachers are prepared to continue leading the world in innovation, research, and technology. Across America, both children and educators increasingly rely on technology in the classroom to learn the skills needed to excel in core subjects, improve test scores, and succeed in today’s workforce. In order to stay competitive long into the future, America needs the necessary education and innovation infrastructure. That is why I was a lead sponsor of the America COMPETES Act of 2007 and the American COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which focused on increasing American innovation and competitiveness to ensure that our nation’s students and teachers are prepared to lead the world in research and technology. This important legislation has strengthened educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from elementary through graduate school by supporting internship opportunities and fellowships for students and encouraging students studying in STEM areas to pursue teaching credentials. This bill also significantly increased federal investment in research for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Office of Science at the Department of Energy, as well as other federal agencies to strengthen math and science education.
In 2009, I led passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act), which included significant funding for scientific research and technology and expanded access to broadband, particularly in rural communities. These investments will help ensure that students have the skills they need to be ready for higher education and the workforce. Unfortunately, since these investments in research and technology, across-the-board cuts known as “sequestration” has had a negative impact on important scientific research and efforts to further expand technology. I have worked hard and will continue to work to replace these senseless cuts with a more balanced approach to reduce our deficit, close wasteful tax loopholes, invest in important priorities such as research and technology, and make more targeted spending reductions.
Many areas, particularly rural and low-income communities, continue to lack access to broadband service. It is critical that Nevada’s rural areas benefit from the same technological advances that other parts of the country have enjoyed. Significant improvements have been made in providing access to all areas of the country, but more must be done. The Recovery Act provided a total of $7.2 billion for broadband expansion, consisting of $4.7 billion for a newly established Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and $2.5 billion for existing Department of Agriculture broadband programs. Those funds laid the groundwork for a national broadband policy that seeks to reduce and eliminate the digital divide between communities across the country. In 2012, I led passage of legislation authorizing the federal government to auction television spectrum to wireless carriers, which will improve wireless services and produce up to $15 billion in revenue. The legislation also sets aside spectrum and funds for a public safety network for first responders, finally realizing a goal established after the terrorist attacks of September 11th.
We must also ensure that the next generation is ready to meet the challenges of a global high-tech economy. Students increasingly need computer skills to compete for jobs, but too often schools lack the access to technology or teachers lack the training to empower our students with this knowledge. That is why I am a strong supporter of the e-Rate program, which provides discounted Internet access for schools and libraries. This important program has helped improve academic achievement and continues to provide our schools and teachers with the resources to prepare our students for the global economy. In addition, the Recovery Act provided $650 million to expand technology in the classroom and help teachers better incorporate technology into the curriculum.