An advanced computer research consortium formed to assure U.S. technological superiority over the Japanese said today that it would establish its headquarters here in the Texas capital after being sought avidly by 52 cities in 22 states.
The company, Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp. (MCC), a consortium of 12 U.S. firms that is headed by former CIA deputy director Bobby Inman, plans to spend up to $150 million a year on what it hopes will be the most advanced computer research in the world.
"Years from now we will look back and realize this was a turning point for our state and the beginning of a new spirit for this nation's technological development," Texas Gov. Mark White said in a statement applauding MCC's decision to move to Austin to design the next generation of computer technology.
Austin, with its strong engineering program at the University of Texas, a well-educated work force and attractive living conditions, has lured a large number of high-technology firms over the past decade. MCC's move will put the city into the front ranks of the computer world, along with California's Silicon Valley, Route 128 around Boston, and North Carolina's Research Triangle.
MCC is considered one of the most significant joint ventures ever launched by U.S. corporations. If the plan to pool research and development costs and share the results proves effective, MCC could become a model for other American industries seeking to combat growing worldwide competition. "The advent of cooperative R&D is the most significant step forward in the computer industry , since large-scale integration lowered the cost" of computers and improved the productivity of the industry, said MCC spokesman Bill Shaffer.
One of the losers in the final round of bargaining over the site was Atlanta. "I gather Texas bought it," said Mayor Andrew Young. "I was convinced these were men of wisdom and intelligence who knew which way the world turns. I can't imagine why anyone would want to go to Austin when they could come to Atlanta."
California, another loser in the final round along with North Carolina's Research Triangle, has seen a number of high-tech companies in the Silicon Valley expand their operations to other states. This time the state made a concerted effort to recruit MCC to San Diego. Gov. George Deukmejian personally intervened on the city's behalf. He was not in Sacramento when Inman announced MCC had chosen Austin and had no immediate comment.
Texas put together a package of incentives designed to lure MCC to Austin. The package included a promise to strengthen the computer science and computer chip engineering programs at both the University of Texas in Austin and Texas A&M University in College Station, one of the first cooperative efforts between the two intensely competitive institutions.
Texas also promised to add endowed professorships at UT and Texas A&M, to increase laboratory space for microelectronic engineering and research and provide MCC space in UT's Balcones Research Center in Austin, at minimal cost.
MCC is the brainchild of William Norris, chairman of Control Data Corp. of Minneapolis. It was formally launched last January and has set for itself an aggressive timetable. Plans call for MCC to begin operations in Austin in September. Eventually, several hundred will be employed.
The company will concentrate on four areas of research: advanced computer architecture, or the design of new hardware, including a fifth-generation computer; software technology; computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing for electronics; and component packaging. Among members of the consortium, in addition to Control Data, are Honeywell Inc., Motorola Corp. and RCA Corp.