A crowd of 150 Austin dignitaries on Tuesday opened the Pike Powers Laboratory and Center for Commercialization in East Austin as the lab’s namesake predicted a brighter future for Austin and Central Texas.
“We’re going to innovate, we’re going to create, we’re going to jazz this sucker up and keep right on going,” Powers told the crowd. “We’re going to disrupt, we’re going to converge, whatever it takes…to make new things happen.”
The lab is an arm of Pecan Street Inc., a energy research consortium created by the University of Texas, the city of Austin, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and others.
Large and small companies, as well as researchers, will be able to test their consumer products and new technologies that will be found in tomorrow’s homes and businesses.
Naming the lab after Powers honors a key architect of the Austin technology economy.
A former state lawmaker from Beaumont, Powers served as chief executive to then-Gov. Mark White during the mid-1980s as Texas began diversifying its oil-bound economy by luring technology giants.
Powers, a lawyer, continued his economic development efforts over the past four decades from the private sector.
“This is Pike’s vision,” Pecan Street Inc. chief executive Brewster McCracken said. “His name is not on this lab by accident.”
Calling Powers “the godfather of the Texas technology economy,” McCracken said Powers was a chief architect in bringing MCC, Sematech, 3M, Samsung Electronics, Applied Materials and many others to Central Texas.
McCracken said that technology foundation, in turn, encouraged homegrown companies such as Dell Inc. and National Instruments.
“The effort here in Austin that Pike and others came together around was focused on bringing together the intellectual firepower of great research universities with the fearlessness and entrepreneurism of the wildcatter,” McCracken said.
For a decade, McCracken said Powers had warned that the “missing piece” in the Austin economy was a commercialization lab.
In his remarks Tuesday, Powers recalled a speech he gave 10 years ago about the so-called “Austin model” for economic development.
He said a community must elevate its strengths and take a risk.
“Educate, adapt, innovate, collaborate,” Powers said. “The real risk is not acting, not collaborating and assuming that a great economy is not a product of hard work and great risk.”