Senate Candidate Kaine Taps into IIT Talent for Ways to Strengthen US Economy

Senate Candidate Tim Kaine with the Indian American audience

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Reston, VA – Former Virginia governor Tim Kaine, a Democratic candidate for the US Senate race, recently attended a morning economic roundtable discussion with Indian American business leaders in Northern Virginia as part of his campaign and stressed the need to develop the world’s most talented workforce through smart investments and reforms in education, workforce training, and immigration.

Commenting on the meeting with Kaine, Suresh Shenoy, a member of the Capital IIT leadership team and Executive Vice President of IMC in Reston, Virginia, said, “It was most encouraging to see Governor Kaine reach out to the Indian community represented by members of the Capital IIT Alumni Association, TiE-DC, Indian American Political Forum and others.”

The Indian American audience was responsive as Shenoy reflected, “Governor Kaine was generous with his time and it was heartening to see him sit through 90 minutes of animated conversation and discussions covering, among other subjects, education, immigration, the deficit and debt.“

During the Q&A after Kaine’s speech, Hiten Ghosh, Vice President of Hughes Communication and a senior leader of the PanIIT Alumni Organization of Greater Washington, DC, talked about the WHEELS project of IIT alumni and its work in six common problems areas of the US and India, where technology applications will accelerate the deployment of innovative solutions and create new business enterprises and jobs.

Later speaking to Tejinder Singh, editor of India America Today, governor Kaine discussed his record of bipartisanship and offered his ideas for breaking through the Washington gridlock which is holding back the recovery of the US economy.

The economy is the main subject. How do you see making the US economy competitive?

I think the people in the room today are the perfect examples of it. This is a group of people who are very talented, so we have to win the talent race; education; but it is also the immigration reforms.

We have to have policies which really advantage small and start-up businesses. Too often, when politicians talk about job creators, they talk about the big companies. They don’t talk about the small and start-up businesses that are represented around this table. It is the small and start-up businesses who are the job creators. So we have to win the talent race and we have to have the policies that enable the small and start-up businesses to be successful.

Many of the strategies and the answers about how to do that are right in this room and they are in the successful Indian American community in Virginia.

Most of the people in this room are from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). How do you see tapping into this very rich resource for talent?

First I have got huge help from Indian Americans, including IIT grads in my campaign already — not only helping because they want me to win, but giving me ideas, offering thoughts.

The IIT folks have given great ideas; for example, the need for visa reforms. We make it hard for students who come here for graduate degrees to stay, and that hurts our economy. We need to make it easier for the people who are here to stay and create opportunities for the United States.

Thus far, the IIT Alumni have been helpful to me in giving me good advice on issues like visa reforms.

You mentioned immigration reforms. What is your vision, because there is lot there, but nothing pragmatic.

Its a very scattered kind of approach. The first thing I believe is that I want Americans, when we hear the words “immigration reform,” instead of the first thing they think about is border security, which is important, but I want the first thing Americans to think about immigration reforms is that we want to be the most talented place on earth.

All our immigration policy should begin with that principle. Immigration is about we want to be the magnet about talent, the magnet for persistent people who are going to be achievers.

I am a supporter of the Dream Act, because I think the youngsters who are here, we want them to be over-achievers and not lock them into under-achievement. I am for visa reforms for the students who come to our universities be able to stay more easily and create opportunities here.

And I am for a smart strategy for dealing with millions of Americans who are here illegally. We are not going to deport millions of Americans. What we should do, is we should have a penalty. We should require people to raise their hands and say, “I came here illegally,” and there will be a penalty for that. There will be a financial penalty, which will be significant. Somebody can work to pay that penalty off and once they pay it off, they can be in a position to get or apply for a Green Card.

We can use the money they are paying as a penalty to have better border security. That would be the kind of immigration strategy that I think we should pursue. But it all begins with talent.

How do you see yourself breaking the disharmony and gridlock that is prevailing on The Hill?

I will be just one person, so I have to be humble about that. The problem with Capitol Hill is not the building or the water supply. It is the attitude of the people who walk into it everyday.

I have a long track record of working across lines since my time as a missionary in Honduras, to my time as a civil rights lawyer, to my time as a mayor in Richmond and governor. I work across the lines, national or regional, race, political parties. I know how to bring people together around the table to solve problems.

I will take that attitude, and I already have some relationships built up, not only with Democratic Senators but also with Republicans as well and some of the candidates who will be in office. So I will add to the number of people who will be bridge builders and restore relationships.

The last one – what is your take on multi-pronged program called WHEELS, from PanIIT?

I hadn’t heard about WHEELS until today. So I heard about the six research areas and the IIT alumni has said, if we can work on collaborative research with American university counterparts, we not only do positive economic entrepreneurship, but also can solve problems both in the United States and in India.

I hope to serve on the Education Subcommittee in the Senate and certainly university collaborations and research collaborations of that kind would be part of the work that I would be doing as a committee member. And I would love to work with PanIIT on these initiatives.

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