• Obama leaves Austin, minor delays at Austin-Bergstrom airport

    Rainy weather did not take away from President Obama's visit to Austin, but the presidential limo will probably need a car wash.

    The vehicles comprising the presidential motorcade were streaked with gravel and dirt as they entered the southern terminal of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport for the president's departure at approximately 6 p.m., rounding out the president's first stop in his series of Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tours.

    According to Jason Zielinski, public information specialist for the Austin-Bergstrom airport, security measures for the president's arrival and departure were conducted according to standard Federal Aviation Administration protocol.

    Prior to the president's arrival and departure, all activity on runways is temporarily halted in what is called a "ground freeze," Zeilinski said.

    “Everything stops until he's in the air,” Zielinski said. “There's not movement at all. That means no flights are coming in or departing. It's standard FAA protocol for the president wherever he goes.”

    Zielinksi said flight delays are minimal during a ground freeze.

    “Airlines are aware of the ground freeze ahead of time, so they plan accordingly,” Zielinski said. “As far as passengers who may have been inconvenienced in any way, it was a very minor delay – no cancellations or anything like that.” 

  • Obama stresses technology development, specialized job training

    President Barack Obama stressed the importance of competitive technology development and specialized job training when he spoke at Applied Materials, an Austin manufacturing company, on Thursday. Obama visited the company as part of a Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity tour, in which Austin was the first stop.

    Applied Materials is an Austin-based company that provides equipment and services to manufacture advanced semiconductors, flat panel displays and solar photovoltaic columns.

    Obama announced several new initiatives during the speech, including a competition his administration is launching to create three manufacturing “innovation institutes” around the country.

    “We are looking for businesses and universities that are willing to partner together to help their region — help turn their region into global centers of high-tech jobs,” Obama said. “We want the next revolution in manufacturing to be ‘Made in America.’”

    Obama also announced his administration will take steps to make government-held data more accessible to the public, a move he said will give entrepreneurs access to federally gathered data. He cited StormPulse, a start-up that uses government weather data to help track disruptions in energy service, as one example of a company already using publically available information.

    “One of the things we’re doing to fuel more inventiveness like this, to fuel more private sector innovation and discovery, is to make the vast amounts of America’s data open and easy to access for the first time in history,” Obama said. “Talented entrepreneurs are doing some pretty amazing things with data that’s already being collected by government.”

    Obama also stressed the importance of job training and specialized skills.

    “All of you have specialized skills that are exactly what we need to continue to grow our economy,” Obama said to the audience of Applied Materials workers. “But we’ve got a whole bunch of folks out there who don’t have those skills, either because the education system failed them or because their skills have been rendered obsolete...I want to make sure that we’re training two million Americans at our community colleges for skills that will lead directly to a job.”

    Obama said he felt the country’s future economic growth will be directly tied to innovation.

    “The economy is dynamic. Technology is constantly changing. That means we’ve got to adapt as well,” Obama said. “Even as we’re working to reverse the trend of communities that have been hard hit with old manufacturing leaving, we’ve got to propose partnerships with local leaders in manufacturing communities to help attract new investment in the infrastructure and the research that will attract new jobs and new businesses, so that communities that have been knocked down can get back up and get back on their feet.”

  • Obama starts Austin visit at Manor New Technology High School, promises executive orders

    President Barack Obama visited Manor New Technology High School today, kicking off his Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour.

    Obama touched on the need to update America’s current high school system, the pressure to find affordable higher education and his plans to make more jobs available. He said he would make several executive orders today to help make that possible.

    “Where I can I’m just going to take action on my own, like the actions I’m taking today that I am convinced will spur innovation and create more jobs,” Obama said. “We know what's possible when American are working together. When parents and teachers and business owners are working together, and that’s what we’re seeing here in Austin. We’re seeing people working together.”

    Obama said he will focus on making America a magnet for jobs by helping develop the work skills needed for those jobs.

    Obama said in the last three years in Austin, businesses have created 85,000 new jobs, including Apple, Visa and General Motors. He said the tech sector drives more than a quarter of the city’s economy.

    “I’ve always believed the best ideas don’t start in Washington, they trickle up to Washington, so I’ve come to listen and learn and highlight some of the good work being done,” Obama said. “Our economy can’t succeed unless our young people have the skills that they need to succeed and that’s what’s happening here at Manor New Tech.”

    The high school accepts student applicants interested in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through a blind lottery, and implements project-based learning.

    “We've got to start rethinking and redesigning America’s high schools,” Obama said. “That’s what is happening here, innovation that equips graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy, with hands-on learning. People aren’t just sitting at a desk reading. Young people doing not just listening.”

    Obama said many of the aspects that make the high school different from most, including the student projects and learning environment, should be staples in every American high school.

    “There is a reason why teachers and principals from all across the country are coming to see what you’re up to,” Obama said. “Every day this school is proving that every child has the potential to learn the real-world skills they need to succeed in college and beyond.”

    Obama said because of the struggle to afford higher education after high school, he began a college scorecard rating for colleges and universities to help students find the best value. 

    “In recent years college costs have skyrocketed and that left too many students and their families saddled with mountains of debt,” Obama said. “We’ve worked to make college more affordable for students already. [We’ve] released the college scorecard to give parents and students the clear and concise information you’ll need to meet your needs but also gives you the best value.”

    Clarification: This blog post has been updated to reflect the 85,000 jobs added in the last three years were in Austin.

  • UT System Board of Regents fund campus security enhancements

    The UT System Board of Regents voted Thursday afternoon to use up to $1 million of available university funds for campus security enhancements.

    In April, a Massachusetts Institution Technology police officer was fatally shot and killed, following the Boston Marathon explosion that happened earlier in the week. In an email, UT system spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said these campus security enhancements are not a response to the events in Boston, as the board has been working on this proposal prior to the events in Boston.

    "Of course, shootings and other security threats in recent years on university campuses, schools and other public places are a major concern and the Board of Regents wants to ensure UT police forces are prepared and equipped for any eventuality," LaCoste-Caputo said. 

    LaCoste-Caputo said the money will be used to purchase equipment.

  • Building plans for UT Dell Medical School approved by Board of Regents

    Plans for the UT medical school were unanimously approved by the UT Board of Regents at a meeting Thursday morning. 

    Priced at $334.5 million, the plans build a hospital at the corner of Red River and 15th Street, on campus. The plan also realigns Red River Street to accommodate for other buildings, including a research building and a medical office building.

    "This project brings together the best in academics and community recourses," board of regents chairman Gene Powell said. "It will be the first four-year medical school on a UT campus ever. Its location is by designed. It will be part of the academic campus and also part of the community."

    To make room for the new buildings, the University will remove the tennis courts and centennial park. Plans for the future of the area around the medical school also mention possibly removing the Frank Erwin Center, although President William Powers Jr. said funding and approval for such a project have not been granted.

    "At some point in the future, we want to have the capacity for growth of this medical complex," Powers said. "And if that growth takes place, having the Erwin Center in the middle of it does not make sense."

    Powers stressed that moving the Erwin Center will not happen immediately, if it happens at all.