WASHINGTON — Intel CEO Paul Otellini today unveiled an ambitious private-sector job-creation initiative, outlining a broad-based coalition formed to pump billion of dollars in investments into new technology startups and a commitment from more than a dozen leading IT firms to ramp up hiring.
Speaking here at the Brookings Institution, Otellini described the initiative as an investment in sectors of the economy poised for rapid growth, such as IT, clean energy and biotechnology.
The effort aims to complement the current efforts underway in the federal government to stimulate the economy and create jobs, though Otellini had harsh words for several policies he said were hostile to businesses like Intel (NASDAQ: INTC), such as immigration restrictions on skilled foreign workers and limits to the tax credits firms receive for research and development spending.
“We need to address the fact that government policies can create disincentives to investing in America,” Otellini said. “And the trends here are worrisome.”
Under the Invest in America Alliance Otellini announced today, Intel’s global investment arm, Intel Capital, is partnering with 24 venture-capital firms committed to investing $3.5 billion over the next two years in technology startups. Of that, Intel plans to contribute $200 million.
Additionally, Intel has secured commitments from 16 other leading tech firms to accelerate their hiring of recent college graduates. Many of the firms on board, which include Dell, Microsoft, Cisco and Google, plan to more than double their hiring rates for new entrants into the workforce in a push that Otellini said would create more than 10,500 jobs this year.
Otellini’s announcement comes as President Obama’s jobs bill is beginning to work its way through Congress, yesterday passing a key test vote in the Senate that saw five Republicans break ranks to defeat a filibuster.
Otellini offered very tepid praise for some of the job-creation and recovery efforts the government has undertaken since the onset of the recession, including last year’s stimulus package, though he objected to the implementation schedule, saying that too much of the money won’t flow into the economy until next year or 2012.
“But stimulus spending is not a substitute for forward-looking investments that help create the underpinnings of economic growth,” he said.
“The countries of Europe, Asia, Latin America and, before long, the Middle East, are going to be competing with us in every sphere of the economy in the years ahead. If we want to stay with them, and remain a vibrant growth economy, we have to recommit to a strategy that drives the economic growth of the future.”
Otellini’s list of gripes with U.S. innovation policy is long. The comparatively low U.S. tax credit for R&D, and its non-permanent status, can push high-tech firms like Intel to look overseas when they are planning to open a new lab or manufacturing facility, he said. He had similarly harsh words for the corporate tax rate.
“At a time when countries in Europe and Asia are clamoring to offer companies like Intel significant tax benefits to build factories, the national tax incentives for companies to invest here in the U.S. are few,” he said.
At the same time, Otellini noted that Intel continues to spend about 75 percent of its R&D budget domestically, though a roughly equal portion of its sales come from foreign buyers. Intel last year pledged a $7 billion domestic investment to build manufacturing facilities for its next generation of processors built with 32 nanometer technology. Two of those fabs are now operating in Oregon, and Otellini said he expects factories in Arizona and New Mexico would open later this year.
But restrictive visa caps can cut off the pipeline of skilled workers available to IT firms in the Unites States, forcing them increasingly to hire overseas, he said. A soft focus on math and science education in the nation’s schools and universities has a similar effect, Otellini said, though he noted that proposed government budget for fiscal 2011 includes increased funding for scientific researchand education.
Asked how he felt the government was doing responding to the economic crisis and other key policy challenges, Otellini was blunt: “Pretty poor. I think it’s been a series of endless compromises and debates at a time when action’s needed,” he said. “While other countries are making hard decisions on attracting investments, we’re debating earmarks.”