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House Bill for STEM Jobs, Funding Would Benefit Georgia

A bill under consideration by a Congressional committee led by Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia aims to turn cities across the U.S. into tech hubs, potentially bringing STEM jobs and research to places like Warner Robins.

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Sen. Raphael Warnock
(TNS) — A U.S. Senator from Georgia is in charge of a Congressional committee tasked with ironing out the details of a funding bill that could bring jobs and research money to Middle Georgia.

Sen. Raphael Warnock is leading the conference committee, made up of Senators and House members, that could present Congress with a resolved bill by the end of the month.

"This would be a huge win for Middle Georgia," Warnock told the Telegraph. "The future is STEM, and in order for folks to benefit from that, we need these innovative tech hubs, and to bring up university funding."

A "tech hub" is what the bill calls a city that serves as a center for advanced tech and commerce. This is Warnock's overarching goal in supporting the legislation: to turn Middle Georgia into a hotspot for STEM research and improved technology, creating jobs and boosting the local economy in the process.

The bill's national goal is to turn cities across the U.S. into tech hubs, and Warner Robins is one of the cities at the top of the committee's list of potentials.

"There was a study by two MIT professors, and when they looked at the provisions in the bill and cities that would likely benefit from this, Warner Robins was on the list," Warnock said. "They're just corroborating what we already know, that we have talent, expertise and intellectual curiosity in Georgia."

Robins Air Force Base drew attention to the area with its STEM capabilities and job production. Investment to turn the area into a "tech hub" would mean money for research and business in addition to job openings.

"About 60 percent of the positions there are filled by civilians, many of which require STEM expertise. This bill would provide for the kind of training of the future workforce we need in order to create economic growth in the Warner Robins and Middle Georgia region," Warnock said.

Savannah and Columbus were also listed as potential hub cities. There are no exact figures for how much money could come to Middle Georgia or for how many jobs might be created.

The bill would also increase STEM funding for universities nationwide and make it more affordable for smaller schools to purchase equipment and do research. Middle Georgia State University would be a prime candidate for the extra funding in Georgia, a state where money is often funneled to larger state schools like Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia.

"If grants come more readily available, we can purchase equipment we wouldn't otherwise be able to purchase and help students do meaningful research," said Dawn Sherry, chair of the natural sciences department at MGA. "Let's say students are working on a project and then they have to send samples off to a lab. If we have the equipment they need here, the students can follow the process all the way through and learn so much more."

Sherry said that the funding would also give students better experience before going into the workforce and create a better STEM culture in Macon. With better equipment and research capabilities, Macon could draw in more students and STEM experts from around the country.

"We're just a seed that's waiting for a bit of water," Sherry said. "If you've got this kind of equipment, then people don't have to travel to some other location to get these opportunities. If some of this comes to pass, there will also be opportunities for collaborations between labs and industries."

In addition to this Middle Georgia-specific funding, the bill will also contribute more than $40 billion to domestic chip and semiconductor manufacturing. Warnock cited the closure of a KIA manufacturing facility in Georgia as evidence of the state's need for semiconductors.

Congress could pass the bill as early as August, a reconciled version of the U.S Innovation and Competition Act passed by the Senate in 2021 and the America COMPETES Act passed by the House this year. Members of the conference committee will vote on the revamped bill before it has to be re-approved by both the House and Senate.

©2022 The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.