(TNS) — Could the Columbus-Auburn-Opelika area become a regional technology hub? Will Columbus State University receive more federal grants?
Both are possibilities after President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 on Tuesday, U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock told the Ledger-Enquirer in an interview.
The bipartisan bill passed by Congress in late July includes more than $52 billion for U.S. companies producing computer chips with billions more in tax relief via tax credits that encourage chip manufacturing — a move that will help area manufacturers like KIA as well as Pratt and Whitney.
Beyond that, the legislation directs the National Science Foundation to use $10 billion to create about 20 regional technology hubs. The foundation will also receive $81 billion over five years, and a portion of those funds will be used to build research capacity at historically black colleges and universities as well as other small institutions.
Warnock said Columbus is one of the Georgian cities well positioned to take advantage of the new legislation.
“That means jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said. “That means investing in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and the future workforce.”
TECHNOLOGY CENTER AND RESEARCH FUNDING
The wording of the law directs the U.S. Department of Commerce to use a merit-based review process to designate the 20 regional technology and innovation hubs.
Hubs must be geographically dispersed throughout the country, and one-third of hubs must significantly benefit a small rural community.
Columbus is considered one of 102 prime locations for technology hubs based on research by MIT professors Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson, authors of “Jump-Starting America,” Warnock said.
The Columbus-Auburn-Opelika area ranks 81 on the list. The ranking takes into account the number of people aged 25-64 living in the area, house prices, crime, top science graduate programs, number of science students and other points. various data.
Atlanta, Savannah, and Warner Robins are other cities in Georgia to make the Jump-Starting America list. Atlanta is ranked 13th, while Savannah (99th) and Warner Robins (101st) are below Columbus.
“We need to make sure the incredible human potential doesn’t leave Columbus for the West Coast,” Warnock said. “It’s a part of our state with a lot of smart people… These tech hubs would seek to bring together the resources of government, the private sector (and) academia to drive innovation, which is the fuel of our economy.”
As a smaller institution, Columbus State could benefit from expanding the promised federal STEM funding pool. An NSF program in which Columbus State University currently participates, the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, is expected to see a 50% increase in the number of scholarships awarded over the next five years, according to the bill.
The Robert Noyce Scholarship for Teachers Program awards funding to institutions of higher learning to provide scholarships, stipends, and support to STEM majors seeking to become K-12 educators.
Kimberly Shaw, a professor of physics at Columbus State University, helped secure a grant of nearly $1.2 million through the Robert Noyce Program in 2019. The five-year program awards scholarships to junior or senior students pursuing degree programs in math, science, or computer science, and students will receive teacher certification.
She told the LE that federal grant funding typically goes to large universities, so the bill will give smaller academic institutions a better fighting chance.
Shaw said the Robert Noyce program makes the community better because it provides Columbus-area schools with better math and science teachers. These teachers will mentor the next generation of STEM workers. Companies want to know that their workforce is well educated. Employees want to know that schools have talented math and science teachers.
Programs like this attract businesses and employees, but it also helps keep them in the Columbus area, Shaw added.
“The idea that Columbus State will actually be able to compete better for these funds to provide a better education for our students is a really important workforce development, and I can’t say enough. highlight,” she said. “This is going to be a game-changer for a lot of (Columbus State and Muscogee County students.)”
©2022 Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus, Georgia). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.