Favorite things to do in Austin: Frozen Margaritas at Matt's El Rancho
- Pike Powers is a super-lawyer-turned-entrepreneur whose leadership helped turn Austin from a university town into a high-tech powerhouse. Powers, a 1962 Lamar University graduate honored in 1978 as the Lamar Distinguished Alumnus, was partner-in-charge of the Austin office of Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P., from 1978 through 2004. He remains of counsel to the firm. He has also joined Duff and Phelps recently, resident in their Austin office.
- His leadership promoted a new creative spirit in the capital city - one that seized on global opportunites for economic development. That effort began in the governor’s office where Powers led in rallying the community toward the goal of landing the most prestigious economic development prizes of the early 1980s – the Microelectronics Computer Technology Consortium (MCC) and Sematech.
- For the past 30 years, Powers has played an integral role in developing the Austin regional technology economy. Through his leadership in attracting landmark research and development operations in the 1980s (MCC and Sematech) and employers (Applied Materials and 3M, among others), Powers has helped advance the region’s high-tech, information and entrepreneurial economy. He has been a principal participant in mobilizing Austin’s ever-growing high-tech community to create a business/civic/philanthropic network.
- As a board member of virtually all of the Texas technology groups, Powers is a civic entrepreneur who advises Austin’s emerging technology leaders on creating new companies and shaping the region’s collaborative future. From his days on Gov. Mark White’s Science and Technology Council from 1983-1986 to Gov. Rick Perry’s Science and bio-Technology Council from 2002-2003, he has been active in the business community and in legal and charitable organizations at the national, state and local levels.
- Powers was and is a leader in creating the Texas Technology initiative, established in 2002 to redefine and reinvigorate the collaboration between government, academia and private industry. In response to this strategy and the need to stay globally competitive with incentive programs, the State of Texas created a $295 million Enterprise Fund in 2003 and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund in 2005. He was vice-chair of the $200 million ETF Fund and remains active as a chair of the Energy Initiatives Committee of Innovate Texas, a state wide non-profit aimed at encouraging new companies to apply to the emerging Technology Fund for start-up funds. It works with all six Texas University Systems.
- Powers was listed (National Law Journal) as one of the 100 most influential attorneys in the country on 4 successive listings. He was chair of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce in 1989 and was selected by the Chamber to be Austinite of the year in 2005. He received the Texas Legend Award from American Electronics Association in 2007. He helped start the Austin Technology Incubator in 1989 and has long served on the Board of IC2 with Dr. George Kozmetsky. He is currently a frequent speaker/commentator on clean fuel/renewable energy/green issues.
- Powers received his law degree from the University of Texas in 1965. He and his wife, the former Pamela Ann Honea, have a daughter, Shannon and a son, Pike and 3 grandchildren, all living in Austin, TX.
- [Photo by René Lego Photography]
- WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO AUSTIN?
- I've lived in Austin for about 30+ years now. I came originally to be in the legislature, in the '70s, and never left.
- HOW HAS AUSTIN CHANGED SINCE THE 1970s?
- I think we've changed in a very constructive, futuristic way, to be more connected with research, science, the stuff that matters, and the university has played a huge role in helping drive that equation.
- We were a sleepy college town in so many words and the future was pinned on oil and gas, not that that's a bad thing, but it was time to diversify our economy so a series of competitions allowed us to compete and win, and put us on a map that said, "These guys get it," and that the future is going to be about a knowledge-based economy, dealing with information technologies and things like that.
- SRI came in here, and we asked them a simple question, "What's our future in?" They said, "Information technology and its multiple spinoffs and roles." And so, while that seems simplistic, it was really what was considered pretty revolutionary, when they told us that.
- WHAT WERE SOME OF THE FIRST THINGS YOU DID? WHO WAS INVOLVED?
- The Chamber of Commerce, in the fairly early days, decided we were not going to take on companies or groups that polluted the air or the water, that having clean air to breathe and clean water to drink was a valuable community asset, so we turned away polluters.
- Secondly, Dr. Norman Hackerman, from the University of Texas, pitched the concept that we wanted to go for federal research dollars in selected fields so we could build an economy of the region around that. That was considered pretty radical stuff in the '50s and '60s.
- And then we got the break of having some branch offices of major technology companies like Advanced Micro Devices, IBM, Motorola, etc., in the '50s, '60s, and early '70s, that allowed us to have the branch managers and the technology in place to file patents and to do things when it came down to voting for MCC and Sematech.
- Member companies, for instance, just as an example, AMD, Advanced Micro Devices, had one of 5 votes for MCC and Sematech. George Scalise, who was an AMD guy, later head of the Semiconductor Industry Association, voted for us twice.
- So you think about, if they hadn't been here in Austin, and he didn't know the community that well, we may not have gotten those votes that allowed us to do all the rest of it.
- So, you know, a series of things like that plus some leadership that said, "Hey. We don't want to be just another place in the road. We want to be progressive, involved, connected, build off the resources we've got at the University." That's part of how it happened.
- The rest is about the people and the passion that they felt about doing that, doing the right thing for the right reasons at the right time.
- There's a fellow named Neils Thompson who put together the Pickle Research Laboratory out here, now the Balcones. And obviously, Dr. George Kozmetsky, who created ICSquared, was a legend for valuable reasons.
- Admiral Inman, former important figure in the Navy, and the CIA, and National Security Council, first head of MCC. A guy named Frank McBee, who started Tracor as a spin out of the University of Texas. By modest estimates, 435+ companies have spun out of what was Tracor to create companies here, and a whole galaxy of people like that including Neil Kasuric who is a wonderful, thoughtful old man.
- I guess the thing I would say, Josh, is that everybody pitched in to do the things that made a difference and there wasn't anybody seeking individual credits. If you had a private agenda, you better check it at the door because this was to get something done as a community that mattered, big-picture, and people were very unselfish and very much into the fact that Austin was a unique, special place and we need to honor that.
- Let's don't besmirch it, let's grow it the right way, with the right people. It was a fantastic experience, great ride.