NJTC Tech Trek Leaves Participants Hopeful for Legislative Action on STEM Grad Visas


Photo: L-R Jim Bourke, WithumSmith+Brown; Stuart Hanebuth, Power Survey Co.; Venu Myneni, Radiant Systems, Inc.; Karen Lisnyj, NJTC; Michelle Capezza, Epstein Becker Green; Jim Barrood, NJTC Photo Credit: Courtesty NJTC

L-R Jim Bourke, WithumSmith+Brown; Stuart Hanebuth, Power Survey Co.; Venu Myneni, Radiant Systems, Inc.; Karen Lisnyj, NJTC; Michelle Capezza, Epstein Becker Green; Jim Barrood, NJTC | Courtesty NJTC

Each year, a delegation from the New Jersey Tech Council participates in a Tech Trek to Washington, where the members gather with delegations from other states to learn about issues that concern tech companies. The N.J. group then meets with members of Congress to lobby for changes in the law. This was the first time the New Jersey group was led by Jim Barrood, the new president and CEO of NJTC.

NJTechWeekly.com asked Barrood to discuss his experiences this year.

1.        How did the lobbying go in Washington?

The New Jersey Tech Council Tech Trek to D.C. took place on February 10 and 11. On the first day, members joined tech leaders from across the country for a full day of informative policy discussions sponsored by TechAmerica, an organization committed to expanding market opportunities and driving the competitiveness of the U.S. technology industry around the world.  The focus areas discussed were broadband communications, high-skilled immigration reform and cybersecurity.

2.     Whom did the Tech Council meet with on the Hill?

The second day of the trip was spent on Capitol Hill visiting the offices of each and every member of the New Jersey delegation.  It was a busy day for the legislators, many of whom were “on the floor” or in committee meetings. In many cases, we met with top legislative aides responsible for keeping legislators informed of issues important to the constituency. We did spend some time with Congressman Scott Garrett (NJ-5), Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ-7) and Senator Cory Booker.

Photo: NJTC meeting with Congressman Garrett. Photo Credit: Courtesy NJTC

NJTC meeting with Congressman Garrett. | Courtesy NJTC

3.     What were the main concerns of the New Jersey tech companies and their advocates who came on this trek?

The main policy priorities presented were:  making the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which is set to expire on October 1, 2015, permanent; conveying the urgency of increasing the visas for highly skilled STEM graduates; supporting common sense data and cybersecurity policies; urging the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] to provide certainty regarding the integration of unmanned aerial vehicles in our airspace; and addressing the availability and delivery of broadband communications.

4.     Which members of the tech council went along this time?

Business leaders from Power Survey Company (Kearny), Radiant Systems (South Plainfield), ObjectFrontier (Atlanta, with offices in Jersey City), WithumSmith+Brown (Morristown and New Brunswick), Epstein Becker Green (Newark and Princeton) and WeiserMazars (New York and Edison) accompanied NJTC staff on the trip.

Photo: The NJTC delegation had a fruitful meeting with Senator Cory Booker. Photo Credit: Courtesy NJTC

The NJTC delegation had a fruitful meeting with Senator Cory Booker. | Courtesy NJTC

5.      Do you have stories you can tell about any particular meeting you had?

Our meeting with Senator Booker at the end of the day was great. He is passionate about technology and offered to work together with us to support and grow our region’s tech ecosystem.

6.     Is there a chance that something advantageous for the New Jersey tech community will be achieved during this legislative session?

There may be an opportunity to separate the high-skilled STEM portion of the comprehensive immigration reform legislation sometime later in the year. Also, most of the feedback we received in regard to the Internet Tax Freedom Act was favorable, and we are hopeful that it will either be extended again or made permanent.

Stories on past NJTC Tech Treks can be found here:

Tech Trek Gives NJ Tech Companies a Voice in Washington

NJTC Tech Trek Puts NJ Tech Community Needs Front and Center in Washington

NJ Tech Companies Tell Congress About Their Concerns During NJTC Tech Trek

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