Syndicated Column: The Economist: The Power of Powers IV | Opinion

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My dear friend, Pike Powers IV, recently succumbed to Parkinson’s disease after a courageous struggle. Beyond the Austin area, you might not recognize his name, but he changed your life. He was the most powerful force in transforming Texas into an international technological powerhouse. Its impact is unprecedented and we are all beneficiaries.

In the early 1980s, as Texas emerged from an oil boom and faced a decade of devastation, Pike successfully led efforts to attract Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC). The winner of this competition, which was much more intense than anything we see today, would have a decisive growth advantage.

As he began this quest, he felt he would need some numbers; thus, he contacted a child with a brilliant new econometric model. We immediately began a 40-year odyssey of collaboration, mischief, and big problem spanning over 100 projects (and at least as many brutal – and hysterical) speech introductions.

When Pike defended the MCC, Texas wouldn’t normally even compete for such things. The rich endowments of natural resources had long isolated the state from the vicissitudes facing other regions. The battle to bring about this desperately needed diversification was as much about convincing people in Texas as it was about winning in the larger effort.

Pike possessed the skills of an extraordinary lawyer to “make deals,” a remarkable political acumen, an ability to forge consensus among disparate groups, an intellect for visualizing a brighter future, and an uncanny knack for mind-boggling presentations. He experienced personal and professional challenges that would have shattered lower souls, but never lost his optimism or his passion.

After MCC, its successes have been numerous: Sematech, Samsung, Freescale, AMD, 3M, Applied Materials and many others. I had the privilege of accompanying the trip. When I wrote the “Texas, Our Texas” report which outlined a development strategy 20 years ago, Pike led it through a legislative minefield. Later, we worked with others on the Texas Technology Initiative, which helped Texas evolve as the focus shifted from chips and hardware to software, games, biosciences, materials science and to nanotechnology.

Even though his health deteriorated, his enthusiasm persisted. In his good days, we were discussing new ideas and initiatives. He was still focused forward. I have had many opportunities to honor him lately as bands praised his fundamental accomplishments. Between the incessant mutual roasts, I sought to put his life in perspective, but I probably never succeeded. I don’t know if anyone could.

Texas Continues to Make Progress with Major Cancer Initiative; national laboratories; Command of the future of the army; and impressive new locations in commercial space exploration, electric vehicles and emerging energy technologies. Other projects are advancing behind the scenes. The footprint is constantly expanding, but the fingerprints inevitably include those of Pike Powers.

The state will undoubtedly persist in its quest for global technological supremacy. Regardless of the height reached, however, he will still stand on his shoulders and rest in the shadow of a true Texan giant. Your spirit and your heritage will never diminish, my brother. Be careful.

Mr. Ray Perryman is President and CEO of The Perryman Group (perrymangroup.com), which has served the needs of more than 2,500 clients over the past four decades. groupeperryman.com, info@perrymangroup.com, 254-751-9595.

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