Gilmore Gets High Marks From Industry

Gilmore Gets High Marks From Industry

By Neil Munro
Senior Writer

Industry executives are cheering pro-technology initiatives by Gov. James Gilmore, who staged a technology fair just for them prior to his inauguration.

During the event, Gilmore promised additional support for worker training efforts and increased status for George Mason University. The Jan. 11 fair, "Celebrating Virginia's Future: A Technology Showcase," drew hundreds of industry officials.

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Gov. James Gilmore

Gilmore's initial steps are "extremely positive" for the high-tech industry, said George Newstrom, president of Electronic Data Systems Corp.'s government services group and treasurer of the industry-funded Northern Virginia Technology Council.

Many of Northern Virginia's high-tech industry executives were early supporters of Gilmore's opponent, former Lt. Gov. Donald Beyer.

Industry officials said Beyer earned their support by building close contacts with industry leaders over the last decade and by co-founding the industry-backed Northern Virginia Technology Council. Also, executives feared that Gilmore's pledge to cut auto taxes would derail industry's call for greater state investment in education, training and transportation improvements.

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George Newstrom, president of Electronic Data Systems Corp.'s government services group

Gilmore "has erased the lines that were there before the election," said Newstrom, who donated $14,000 to Democratic candidates for the Nov. 4 elections, including $11,500 to Gilmore's opponent, according to data collected by the Virginia Public Access Project. The project, funded by several newspapers, including the Washington Post Company, which owns Washington Technology, collected fund-raising reports from the candidates and has posted them on a World Wide Web site.

The new comity was on display at the fair held at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va., where Gilmore formally introduced his new cabinet to an audience of several hundred industry executives.

"Virginia is not an information technology state. It is the information technology state," Gilmore told the cheering crowd.

After the speech, Gilmore and his cabinet members mingled with the executives and visited many of the 75-plus booths set up by high-tech companies and industry groups. Gilmore, who has also promised to boost children's education, appoint a cabinet-level official for science and technology and a statewide chief information officer, replaced Republican George Allen.

The event had been organized by the university at Gilmore's request, because he wants to work with high-tech executives, regardless of whether they backed Beyer or Gilmore, said Alan Merten, GMU university president. There's been no rancor between Gilmore's team and the many Beyer supporters in the high-tech industry, said Merten, who did not donate any funds to Beyer or Gilmore.

To strengthen the ties, industry executives and the NVTC will try to meet frequently with Gilmore and his officials, said Newstrom.

Gilmore downplayed any lingering disagreement, saying, "we are interested in listening to everybody." While acknowledging that some industry executives supported him while others opposed his candidacy, Gilmore said politics must take a back seat to governing.

However, Gilmore said he is looking for a "team player" to fill the high-visibility post of state secretary for science and technology. Among the several candidates for the post are Don Upson, vice president for strategic communications at Litton-PRC Inc., McLean, Va., and Paul Brubaker, a vice president of business development at Litton-PRC, both of whom helped found a pro-Gilmore fund-raising group.

Among Beyer's prominent supporters were Newstrom, Merten and Edward Bersoff, chief of BTG Inc., Vienna, Va.

To bolster his support in the high-tech industry, Gilmore formed an advisory group in May 1996 of high-tech executives, including Upson and John Gioia, president of Alexandria, Va.-based Gioia Enterprises International, which does program management work for companies such as AT&T.

These early Gilmore supporters and his eventual victory in the polls boosted the campaign donations that Gilmore gained from the information technology industry by Dec. 4 to a total of $608,152.46. This exceeded Beyer's total of $552,812.31, according to data released by the project.

Gilmore's continued outreach ensures that all of the region's technology executives have ready access to the new governor, said Gioia.

"Ninety percent of these companies [at the Jan. 11 gathering] were Beyer supporters, but now they've got access," he said. Gioia added that his early support of Gilmore will only ensure extra press scrutiny should his company win contracts from the state.

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