Case Study: Texas lawyer takes case, contacts to lobbyists

The challenge: Get state funding to strengthen Texas’ position in nano.

The approach: Raise the profile of the Texas Nanotechnology Initiative; network with state technology development groups; assist development groups in their efforts to pass new legislation supporting overall technology growth in the state.

The result: On June 13, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill that creates an emerging technology fund that will distribute up to $200 million to develop technology — including nanotechnology — in the state.


July 25, 2005 It might sound counterintuitive, but if Kelly Kordzik is right, then the way to develop nanotechnology within your state is not to ask others to help you. Rather, it is to offer to help others.

The president of the Texas Nanotechnology Initiative (TNI), like his counterparts across the country, had been looking for creative ways to promote nanotechnology and, most importantly, garner Texas state government support for its research and development. With the June passage of the Emerging Technology Fund, he and the TNI achieved a major milestone.

But they didn’t do it by siphoning funds away from other areas and into nanotech. Instead, they networked with a variety of Texas economic development groups, educating them about nanotechnology and integrating nanotech into existing, well-organized efforts to steer state funds into emerging technology development. The path they took could serve as a blueprint for others.

“TNI had done some great work in 2001, 2002 and the first part of 2003,” said Kordzik, an intellectual property lawyer and chair of the nanotechnology practice group at the Austin office of Winstead Sechrest & Minick P.C. But by the time he took over as TNI president in 2004, the group had begun to languish.

Some of the problem, he said, was volunteer fatigue. Some of it was low funding; a 2003 ice storm undermined the hoped-for revenue of a trade show. And some of it was frustration that there was no support from state government or large corporations — especially compared to rivals California and New York.

Kordzik and others in TNI began a process of reaching out throughout the state. Rather than limit the initiative’s monthly meetings to Dallas, they began holding them in different cities like Lubbock and San Antonio, networking with regional economic development officials and business leaders along the way.

By mid-2004, TNI’s profile was high enough that Kordzik was invited to participate in meetings of the Texas Technology Initiative, a state-funded tech development effort that dated to 2002. In that effort, Kordzik says, “everyone saw that there was finally an opportunity to get our state government into the (nano) game.” Attendance at meetings and excitement remained high. And furthermore, he noted, “It became clear that nanotechnology is going to play a role in all these other technologies.”

In early 2005 a bill was introduced in the Texas House and Senate calling for funding for emerging technology development. Kordzik knew its major backers, a sophisticated group of lobbyists comprised of executives, government staffers and technologists.

They eventually invited him to join their group and in return, Kordzik said, he offered his resources; specifically, his lists of 2,000 Texans keen to promote nanotech to help push through the legislation.

Nano industry lobbyists wrote their legislators, called personal contacts and, when necessary, walked the halls of government to help usher through the legislation. In exchange, they raised nanotech’s profile in the state and put it solidly in the minds of development officials. They might even have a seat at the table when it comes to advising officials how to spend the money: Kordzik is waiting to see if he’ll be appointed to the committee.


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