The campaign that attracted an avidly courted computer research consortium to the capital of Texas might have been copied from the Japanese, whose technique of effectively marshaling the forces of government, industry and academia has made their economy one of the strongest in the world.
The consortium, Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp. (MCC), was designed specifically to compete against the Japanese.
But, despite the apparent similiarities, the campaign was characteristically Texan in its reliance on the support of private capital to pay for the incentives the state offered MCC and in the easy relationship that existed between state political and business leaders working in behalf of Austin. Ultimately this brought the joint research venture of 12 high-technology companies to Texas.
MCC is an unusual venture designed to combat growing Japanese competition in the computer field by pooling major companies' resources for basic research. Headed by Bobby Inman, former deputy director of the CIA, it is similar to what the Japanese did in the 1970s in semiconductor research, although the Japanese program was guided and financed by the government.
Hundreds of Texans, in and out of government, were involved, promising to spend millions of dollars to upgrade the computer and engineering programs at the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, pledging a variety of financial incentives to prospective MCC employes and getting private industry to promise to underwrite the costs of everything from academic improvements to the use of a Learjet for MCC officials.
Inman was asked today whether MCC can compete successfully against the Japanese without the strong involvement of the federal government.
"Absolutely," he said. "It is a private sector initiative. But it could not work without state and local government, private sector and academic support. And it's the full measure of that support that's been committed that caused us to choose here."
Inman said today that the commitment by the University of Texas and Texas A&M to make themselves "world-class institutions" was the initial magnet that attracted MCC to Austin.
Inman, who addressed the Texas House and Senate today, said that in the end business and political support "was simply broader than we saw anywhere else."
Gov. Mark White led the Texas effort, attending a session in Chicago where Austin, Dallas and San Antonio made presentations to the MCC site-selection committee. He assigned one of his top assistants, Pike Powers, to head the team that put together the package that finally won the competition against 57 cities in 27 states. Powers said he spent 70-80 percent of his time in the last month working on the MCC recruitment.
White also drew heavily on the talents of San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros, whom Inman said had made the single best presentation in behalf of any city in the nation.
The University of Texas promised to spend $15 million on endowed faculty positions and to add a substantial number of faculty and graduate positions over the next few years. It also will provide space to MCC in the university's Balcones research center. A&M will add to its expertise in microelectronics.
Much of the funding will come from private sources. Asked why not from state taxes, Dallas businessman H. Ross Perot said today, "It's a sure way to get it."
MCC will spend about $70 million annually on four broad research programs, including the design of a new generation of computers and the development of new software technology that could be a significant breakthrough in the industry. Inman said he hopes to put together a team of program leaders in the next two months and begin laboratory operations by late this year.