All that was missing were T-shirts proclaiming this as the “1997 Count the Dollars Tour.”
Piled into a white bus, nine high-technology chief executives toured Washington on Wednesday to lobby Congress and the administration. Orchestrated by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) trade association, the crew was led by industry heavyweights Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp., and Andy Grove, chairman of Intel Corp. Their two companies had almost $30 billion in revenues last year.
The executives kept their message simple: The high-technology industry is fueling much of the growth in the U.S. economy, they said. To keep up the pace, they have a wish list of policy changes that they believe are key to helping the industry continue to thrive.
At a news conference at the National Press Club, Gates introduced a study sponsored by the BSA that calculated that last year the software industry contributed $102.8 billion of goods and software-related services, paid $15.1 billion in taxes and employed 619,400 people. Between 1990 and 1996, the software industry grew 12.5 percent per year.
Eric Schmidt, chairman of Novell Inc., argued that the government must loosen its restrictions on exporting encryption technology, the padlocks of the digital age. The executives said they were supporting legislation in Congress that would let U.S. firms export technology more freely.
Carol Bartz, chairman of Autodesk Inc., argued for continued action against those who illegally copy software and for steps toward stronger copyright laws, including ratification of a new World Intellectual Property Organization treaty.
And Intel’s Grove contended the administration should support national standards for securities litigation reform so companies will not be subject to different states’ rulings on securities laws.