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Bush Names Tech Council Co-Chair, Delivers Pep Talk to Sector Leaders

March 29, 2001|EDMUND SANDERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Expressing confidence that the technology sector will recover from its downturn, President Bush named E. Floyd Kvamme--a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and key Bush supporter--to serve as co-chairman of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The appointment--and pep talk--came as dozens of technology leaders gathered at the White House to hear about the Bush administration's high-tech agenda.

"I first want you all to know that this administration has great confidence in the future of our technology industry," Bush told the group. "We recognize, like you do, that the stock market may be sending a little different message right now. But the accomplishments of the industry are rock solid. The future is incredibly bright."

Kvamme will serve as a part-time, unpaid goodwill ambassador to Silicon Valley. He is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a high-tech investment firm, and co-founder of Technology Network, a Silicon Valley political action committee. He was a major force in helping Bush raise campaign contributions from the technology industry.

"I can think of no better coordinator than Floyd," Bush said. "He's an entrepreneur. He's a risk taker . . . But more importantly, he knows the players, the people that can bring good, sound advice to this administration."

Kvamme did not speak at the news conference announcing his appointment and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Bush's public remarks offered little news for the ailing technology companies. Once the star of the U.S. economy, the technology sector today is in full retreat. Over the last two months, Cisco Systems Inc., Motorola Inc., Compaq Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. have announced thousands of layoffs as sales have sagged and stock prices have plummeted.

Bush reiterated his support for removing trade barriers, easing restrictions on technology exports, improving education and making permanent the research and development tax credit. He also urged the business leaders to support his proposed budget and $1.6-trillion tax cut, saying they would help boost the nation's economy.

Bob Herbold, an executive vice president at Microsoft Corp. who attended the meeting, said industry leaders were encouraged by Bush's high-tech agenda. He said private discussions focused on reforming public education, removing trade barriers and boosting the economy. Not addressed, he said, were hot-button issues such as Internet taxation and privacy.

Some technology companies are also pushing Bush to include in his overall tax package a tax credit--ranging from 10% to 20%--for the installation by cable carriers and telephone companies of high-speed Internet wires in underserved areas.

It was unclear whether Kvamme's appointment signals the end of discussions to appoint a high-tech "czar" to oversee technology policy in the Bush administration. Kvamme had been considered a leading contender for such a position.

But Commerce Secretary Don Evans has said that he intends to play that role. Last week, he conducted a "listening tour" of the Silicon Valley. But so far, many key technology posts in his department remain vacant, including undersecretary for technology and assistant secretary for technology policy.

Bush is expected to name another co-chairman with a science background to work with Kvamme on the council, which was created by Bush's father in 1980.

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