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Rep. Steny Hoyer Headshot

Innovation Is Key to Helping Businesses Make It In America

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Since our nation's earliest days, Americans have excelled at envisioning new ideas and transforming them into the products that make the world run. From the Bell telephone, to the Wright brothers' airplane to the first personal computer, innovation has driven American enterprise from generation to generation, creating jobs in the process.

Americans overwhelmingly believe if America is to be great in the decades ahead it will be because we continue to make things and sell them here and around the world. Only by tapping into our tradition of innovation can we continue to lead the global economy of the twenty-first century. Investments in innovation will enable us to move our economic recovery forward and lay the groundwork for a new generation of well-paying jobs for the middle class that won't be shipped overseas.

Our foreign competitors are investing heavily in research and development and graduating more scientists and engineers. They are working hard to replicate the innovation culture that made us the world's economic leader. However, I believe -- and I know most Americans agree -- that we cannot afford to cede that leadership role or allow our innovation edge to erode.

According to a New York Times feature in January, when the late Steve Jobs was preparing to unveil the original iPhone in 2007, Apple executives determined that finding the 8,700 trained engineers in the United States needed to supervise its 200,000 assembly line workers would take up to nine months. In China, however, it would take only two weeks. Part of the reason is because China and other countries have been investing in science, technology, engineering, and math -- or "STEM" -- education, skills training, and basic research at unprecedented levels, building a workforce well prepared to compete for these jobs. According to the National Science Board, ten Asian nations have increased their research and development expenditures to equal ours. Furthermore, the number of Chinese graduates earning doctoral degrees in engineering has doubled since 2000 and has now surpassed the number of engineering doctorates earned here.

Across the world, our competitors are investing in their future. We cannot afford to fall behind. As former President Bill Clinton wrote in his latest book Back to Work, it's time Americans got into the future business again. Much like the successes of our past, our economic future will be fueled by our limitless energy to innovate. And the best way to tap into that innovation energy is through House Democrats' Make It In America plan, for which I have been proud to take the lead in Congress.

Make It In America is the comprehensive jobs plan this country needs, and it aims to restore certainty to American businesses and help them expand so they can create jobs and compete overseas. It combines strategic tax reform that encourages manufacturers to move production back here with investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure.

A great example of this is the America Invents Act, which Congress passed last year. That legislation will help clear the current patent backlog, speed the processing of new applications, and provide for greater intellectual property protection. When innovation drives an economy, safeguarding intellectual property is vital to making sure those who develop new products can manufacture and sell them profitably.

Other Make It In America proposals to increase innovation await action by Congress. One would establish a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, which would bring manufacturers, academics, and government leaders together to create an innovation infrastructure that will speed the development of manufacturing technologies. Another calls for a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that will help close persistent achievement gaps, graduate more students who are college and career-ready, and include robust funding for STEM education programs from an early level. Our plan would also update and modernize the Workforce Investment Act to make job skills training more accessible to those currently out of work. A Make It In America bill I introduced last year would partner manufacturing businesses with local colleges and universities to provide training in essential skills and create a pathway to careers.

Our plan also encourages businesses to produce more of their goods here in order to take advantage of co-locating design and production, which we believe further feeds innovation as engineers move between the laboratory and the factory floor. These are just some of the ways the Make It In America plan aims to help businesses innovate and find the skilled workers they need for the jobs that investments in innovation will help create.

When Democrats first introduced Make It In America legislation two years ago, we did so in the hope that Republicans would join with us in a bipartisan effort to put more Americans back to work by investing in business growth. Unfortunately, not only have House Republicans refused to do so but they have yet to propose a comprehensive jobs plan of their own after nearly 20 months in the Majority. A glimmer of hope may be found in the 10 Make It In America bills that were able to draw bipartisan support and be passed into law -- a good start but nowhere near what must be done to meet our challenges and move our economic recovery forward.

Make It In America is about more than just promoting innovation; it is about recapturing the spirit that long made us the world's innovation leader. If we can do so, there is no limit to what we can achieve and the future we can create. It's up to Congress to embrace that future and make it possible.