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San Diego Leaders Tell Peters, Hoyer What Innovation Economy Needs From Congress

— Congressman Scott Peters lead a forum at UC San Diego Monday on what Congress can do to support local innovation. San Diego business leaders, researchers and special guest House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer focused mostly on what Washington isn’t doing.

How can Congress support local innovation? Congressman Peters led a forum to discuss just that.

Congressman Scott Peters.

Hoyer opened the afternoon panel airing his concerns about cuts to federal grants for the kind of long-term projects known as basic research.

“Stockholders are not necessarily interested in basic research,” he said. “They may be very interested in applied research but they look at that quarterly report, and what government has always done is be able to do the long-term visionary research.”

Hoyer said during his more than 20 years on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, representatives had a goal of giving the National Institutes of Health enough funding to support a third of the grant applications they received. Hoyer said today, many federal agencies are down to funding less than 10 percent of grant applications.

Local leaders on the panel told Hoyer what San Diego businesses need is stability. Mark Cafferty, CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation said many employers had to consider layoffs because of sequestration.

“Only to lose a lot of their best workers whether they wound up ever needing to let them go or not,” he said. “Because their sharpest and smartest workers who could go elsewhere were going elsewhere.”

Holly Smithson, President of Clean TECH San Diego, said she is looking to Congress for to make tax credits for companies that invest millions in research and development permanent.

“They have to be able to plan more than 1 year, more than 5 years, so that we can have consistent tax policy that invite this type of private investment,” she said.

Former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who now leads the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Magda Marquet, chair of the BIOCOM board of directors, UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla and John Dunn, board member for CONNECT also sat on the afternoon’s panel.

They pointed to immigration and tax reform as other areas that could grease the wheels of local business.

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