04/24/2014 11:28 am ET Updated Jun 24, 2014

Promoting Change in Texas

Texas is a hotbed for technological innovation and a welcoming place to develop video games.

This was evident in Austin during South by Southwest where local innovators joined entrepreneurs from around the world to showcase creative designs and share bold ideas that will shape the future of the video game industry. The technologies displayed at SXSW Gaming were truly cutting-edge, and attendees shared a palpable sense of excitement and enthusiasm for these innovations.

However, Austin didn't become a tech hub overnight.

Its success stems from collaboration between policymakers and the private sector to develop creative ideas and overcome shared challenges -- a task Texas leaders embraced. State officials continue to advance policies that are attracting high-tech companies and creating 21st century jobs. ESA recognized two of these leaders, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs, during SXSW for supporting our industry and putting the state on the map as the place to develop interactive entertainment.

By working with businesses and championing pro-growth economic policies and programs, such as the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, Gov. Perry and Comptroller Combs created an environment in which companies can innovate and thrive. In the last seven years, video game developers have flocked to Texas and made significant contributions to the state's economy. For example, the Texas Film Commission reports that video game companies invested $643.5 million in in-state productions between 2006 and 2009. The industry also created more full-time jobs than any other moving image entertainment sector from 2007 to 2009, employing 13,613 direct and indirect workers in 2009 and adding more than $490 million to the state economy.

Texans benefit from the growth of these high-tech jobs. Our latest economic impact report on the U.S. video game industry shows that there are 80 companies that develop and publish computer and video games in Texas and the average direct compensation for industry employees is more than $87,000.

This growth also presents more opportunities for Texas students to pursue careers in the state's burgeoning video game industry. Of the 385 colleges, universities and technical schools in the U.S. offering programs and courses in video game design, development, and programming, 24 are located in the Lone Star State. Texas ranks third on the list of states with schools offering such programs, which prepare students with the skills they need to land meaningful careers and ensure local companies draw from a talented pool of candidates.

The focus on developing the next generation of leaders was evident throughout SXSW. Organizations in the education space such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Amplify showcased new technologies that are transforming classrooms, while others hosted events that directly engaged the local community. One of these events was a coding jam hosted by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation's Leaders on the Fast Track Program. With upbeat music playing in the background, hundreds of local Austin students learned how to code using HTML and CSS -- skills they can apply to a variety of high-tech jobs, including video game design. Collaborations like these make math and computer science fun, and their impact is bolstered by state officials' embrace of technology as an educational tool. The Texas Education Agency, for example, approved high school technology curriculum that includes courses in video game design, Web game design, and mobile app development.

It's easy to see why Texas is drawing attention from new start-ups and established companies seeking a place to call home. Texas provides an example of how forward-thinking policymakers and innovative business leaders can work together to encourage and achieve progress.