Tester Continues Push to Bring Rural Tech Hub to Montana During Senate Hearing with Secretary of Commerce
Senator: “I have faith in this country, and I have faith in our ability to emerge from a time when we’ve outsourced our jobs to a time when we can bring the jobs back here again”;
“I am blown away by the effort that Montanans have put forth on this opportunity”
As part of his continued push to bring a Regional Technology and Innovation Hub to Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today pressed officials at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on how they plan to ensure rural America is not left behind during the implementation of Tester’sCHIPS and Science Act – bipartisan legislation that will invest in high-tech manufacturing across the country.
“Look, for decades we have outsourced jobs in this country and it hasn’t been a good idea. The Chinese Communist Party is our pacing threat – you both know this – both economically and militarily, and they want to take our place on the world stage,” began Tester during his remarks before the Senate Commerce Committee. “But I have faith in this country, and I have faith in our ability to emerge from a time when we’ve outsourced our jobs to a time when we can bring the jobs back here again and create what we need in this country to meet the needs of this country.”
Tester then outlined how he has worked directly with stakeholders on the ground to help develop a comprehensive proposal that would bring a regional Tech Hub to Montana: “A little over two years ago, Congress started debating the CHIPS and Science Act. I started talking to a group of Montanans about building a technology hub in Montana using the Regional Technology Innovation Hubs Initiative that this Committee created. The vision for this Tech Hub would be to establish Montana’s well-established photonics industry and grow it into a world-class center that can outcompete everyone in technology, and is critical to our economic growth and national security. Madam Chair, I am blown away by the effort that Montanans have put forth on this opportunity. Our best, our brightest have worked together: universities, labor groups, financial groups, state government, have all worked to craft a Tech Hub plan that works for our state, but most importantly works for this country.”
Continuing his remarks, Tester emphasized that Montana is a rural state with a history of ingenuity that is well-positioned to serve as a national leader in the technology sector: “Like any state, funding for our universities is not what it should be. And so these universities are used to fighting and beating the hell out of one another to get the money they need. And the truth is, we have watched them work together [on this]. I come from a state that was built over 100 years ago by people who moved in where there was no grass, and built farms where there was just grass, and built communities and built churches and built hospitals. And now the people in this state of Montana are working together to make sure that Montana can reclaim what we need to have from a technology standpoint to be the nation’s or the world’s leader.”
Tester concluded his remarks by directly asking Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panachanathan how they plan to ensure rural America is not left behind from these major technological investments: “So my question to both of you: When it comes to rural America, Congress has addressed it in several different ways, but you both lead implementation of programs at your respective agencies. How do you address the issue of rural America and making sure that your initiatives will work for rural America and do not leave them behind?”
In August, Tester urged the United States Department of Commerce to strongly consider the Montana-based “Headwaters Tech Hub” consortium’s application to make Montana a Regional Technology and Innovation Hub. In March, Tester urged the Biden Administration to consider feedback from Montanans on why the state should be selected for a rural Tech Hub. And in February, Tester hosted a roundtable at Missoula College to discuss next steps for securing a regional Montana Technology and Innovation Hub, and the innovation and economic growth it would bring to the state.
Last year, Congress passed the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act that will invest in high-tech manufacturing across the country, strengthen technology supply chains, and bolster development of cutting-edge research in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Tester was the only member of the Montana congressional delegation to serve on the conference committee that negotiated the bill.
Among Tester’s key achievements in negotiating the legislation were provisions that establish Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs in key areas across the country. He championed an amendment to ensure that a rural state like Montana will have an opportunity to secure Tech Hub funding, which could ultimately bring hundreds of millions of dollars in new federal funding to the state.