We're hiring and we're bipartisan, says tech lobby in Tampa

Off the Republican convention floor, there's a push to promote key tech issues

Attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa this week is Perse Faily, the CEO of startup EMN8, who will deliver a message on the tech industry's contribution to job growth. When the convention is over, she will head to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., with the same message.

Faily is on a bipartisan mission, and she won't be alone. The tech industry sees the conventions as an opportunity to raise its profile and lobby on critical issues.

Faily will be citing her company as an example of tech's contribution to job growth at a forum at the Republican convention. EMN8 is a venture-capital-backed startup that makes cloud-based software for restaurants. The company is winning some big clients in the restaurant industry, including Burger King, Domino's Pizza and California Pizza Kitchen. The company has 92 employees, 21 of whom were hired over the past year. It has 13 open technical positions.

Both political parties are "talking about jobs as being the single No. 1 element" of importance to the economy, said Faily, "and we're willing to bend anyone's ear who can help drive that."

"We are an engine that is creating and helping that to happen," said Faily, citing her own company's job creation accomplishments.

Tech industry groups, and some tech companies, will be at both political conventions, sponsoring receptions and meeting with lawmakers, their staff members and anyone else who is in a position of influencing policy.

The possibility that a hurricane might hit Tampa didn't stop Faily or EMN8's chief marketing officer, Hope Neiman, from heading to Republican convention there. Nor did it deter CompTIA's Liz Hyman, the industry group's vice president of public advocacy.

Hyman will also attend the Democratic convention to try to connect with lawmakers there.

CompTIA is a sponsor of an invitation-only reception at the GOP confab dubbed Innovation Nation, set for Tuesday. Other sponsors include Facebook, Microsoft, Intel and Oracle, as well as industry trade groups such as the Consumer Electronics Association.

Hyman said her group is particularly concerned about proposed data breach and notification laws. A majority of states have enacted legislation that requires some type of notification in the event of a breach. But adhering to a patchwork of state laws puts "a great deal of burden on small and medium-size" companies, she said.

Hyman wants to convince lawmakers of the need for a national law on breach notifications. She said most of the issues affecting technology are bipartisan. The problem is ensuring that lawmakers are aware of them.

An independent poll of IT executives, commissioned recently by CompTIA, seemed to give a slight edge to President Barack Obama over Republican Mitt Romney, on issues that are important to tech. However, in some cases, the response "not sure" beat, or nearly beat, both candidates.

For instance, when respondents were asked which candidate had tax policies that promote innovation and jobs in the U.S. IT sector, 38% said Obama, 25% said Romney and 37% chose "neither/not sure."

On the question of who would do a better job promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, Obama got 37% of the responses to Romney's 25%, but "neither/not sure" came out on top with 38%.

Education is an important issue for Faily. Her company needs people who can build systems that a restaurant's customers can use to place orders online, via mobile devices and at kiosks. This system will remember a customer's food preferences (no onions, for instance) and give restaurants the ability to market directly to individuals. EMN8 is working on a technology that will bring this capability to repeat walk-in customers.

Faily, who is participating in an Entrepreneurship Expo at both conventions that is being hosted by the Huffington Post, NBC, The Ford Foundation and Startup Hire, plans to talk about such issues as the need for access to capital and education support.

Faily said she is "very passionate about making the case for investment in education" for high-tech and high-skilled employees, "to make sure that we continue to invest in the next generation of technical talent in the U.S."

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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