Texas has the right stuff.
The recent announcement that Toyota’s U.S. headquarters is coming to the state is but one indication that the rest of the world understands that Texas is firing on all cylinders. In March, Texas won Site Selection Magazine’s Governor’s Cup for 2013, an award given annually to the state with the most new and expanded corporate facilities announced over the year. Texas previously won the Governor’s Cup in 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2012. And that means more people – as the accompanying article on this page about a recent U.S. Census report indicates. But it’s hardly time to sit back and rest easy with our boots off, a bottle of cold Lone Star in our hands and the latest hilarious cat video playing on our (Texas-built) smartphone.
Texas will need a world-class university and education system and plenty of innovative business ideas to stay ahead of the game. To quote Satchel Paige, a baseball player who definitely had the right stuff: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” So what does Texas do? Quick: What’s the best idea Texas ever had? OK, chicken-fried steak with cream gravy is up there, but I think one answer up for consideration is the Permanent University Fund. Do what? says Bubba. Originally established by the 1876 Constitution of the state of Texas and setting land aside for the University of Texas (Hook ‘em horns!), the fund gained some real heft with the discovery of oil in the early part of the 20th century. Here’s where those Texas history classes come in handy: The terms of the annexation of the Republic of Texas in 1845 meant that Texas kept its public lands. Another smart move by someone who was thinking ahead, or maybe it was just some lawyer who wanted to show clients he could hoodwink the feds.
At the very least, some Texans were smart enough to know that just because Texas was in the right place at the right time when the dinosaurs got obliterated it didn’t mean we had to become an Appalachian outback plundered by outsiders. In 1923, the Santa Rita No. 1 oil well in Reagan County drilled the first oil on Permanent University Fund land, generating enough revenue that it made UT Austin one of the best-endowed universities in the country. That meant we could build an education system and allowed us, at the very least, to exploit our own good fortune. That money, from that well and many, many others, is still being distributed to universities. We have three universities – UT Austin, Texas A&M and Rice University – that have long been considered research universities. Six universities are now designated as emerging research universities in the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s accountability system: Texas State University, the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the University of North Texas. The THECB reported earlier that Texas Tech University and the University of Houston recently met eligibility as research universities. So the state and its public universities are making progress, as this chart shows. But other states aren’t going to stand still. If Texas wants to continue having the right stuff, it’s going to need continued research and innovation.