Pike Powers, former lawmaker and pioneer of Austin’s tech industry, has died


Longtime Austin lawyer and business leader Pike Powers, one of Austin’s tech pioneers, died on Monday, his family said. He was 80 years old.

Powers had been a key leader in Austin’s economic strategy since 1983, when he helped lead the community’s efforts to land the MCC computer research consortium. He was involved in recruiting efforts for 3M, Sematech, Applied Materials and Samsung Semiconductor Austin.

Powers was a leader in creating Texas Tech Initiatives established in 2002 to redefine and reinvigorate collaboration between government, academia and private industry. In response to this strategy, the State of Texas created a Texas Enterprise Fund of $ 295 million in 2003 and the Emerging Technology Fund in 2005.

Former state senator Kirk Watson, who served as mayor of Austin from 1997 to 2001, said Austin is what it is in 2021, in large part thanks to the work Powers has done to put the city ​​on the map.

“Pike Powers knew how to get things done,” Watson said.

“If you watch Austin’s major successes become a focal point in the global information and knowledge economy, moving from a college town where state government was the dominant part of the economy, Pike Powers was involved in one way or another, “Watson mentioned.

In a statement, Powers’ family said, “Our deep loss is shared by our community. Our husband and father was a visionary who never turned down a request for help and could see decades into the future. He was adored by family, friends and strangers too. He leaves an unmistakable impression on us and the great state of Texas. “

Local lawyer Pike Powers was instrumental in paving the way for Samsung to build its chip manufacturing plant in Austin.  Powers stand in front of the facility as it was under construction in this 2007 archive photo.

Powers was a key member of the Austin delegation that traveled to Seoul, South Korea in 2005 to court Samsung’s potential expansion in Austin. He was then the wand to define the details that paved the way for the company’s huge expansion commitment. Austin’s contingent consisted of several political and business leaders, but Powers quickly took the lead with his strength of personality and willingness to land the project, said Gary Farmer, longtime civic leader and chairman of Opportunity Austin, the Austin Chamber of Commerce regional commission. economic development initiative. Samsung has now invested more than $ 17 billion in building and equipping factories in Austin.

“He showed the ease, charm and leadership that helped win the day,” Farmer said in December 2016 at a ceremony naming Powers the 2017 Texan of the Year by the Texas Legislative Conference.

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Powers was named “Texas Legend” by the American Electronics Association and Distinguished Lawyer by the Austin Bar Association in 2009.

Powers, a native of Beaumont, was a graduate of Lamar University and University of Texas Law School. He served more than seven years in the Texas Legislature, representing his hometown of Jefferson. In 1983, he was chief of staff to the governor of Texas, Mark White. He was also the longtime managing partner of the Austin office of Fulbright & Jaworski (now Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP).

Powers is survived by his wife Pam, daughter Shannon, son Pike and four grandchildren.

Memorial service plans are not yet available, but Powers’ family have said he will be buried in the Texas State Cemetery.

“The light that guides”

Friends and colleagues remember Powers as a power broker who helped make Austin the economic success and technology hub that it is today.

Watson met Powers through the Texas Young Lawyers Association in the mid-1980s and came to see him as a trusted advisor.

“He was someone you knew you could always go to, and he always gave you time. He knew more about it even though you had studied it,” Watson said. “And you would hear from him regularly because he was thinking of you even when you didn’t know it.”

Watson and other executives point to perhaps one of Power’s most notable accomplishments, the landing of Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp. at a time when Austin was still in many ways a sleepy college town. Landing MCC has helped elevate the region’s nascent tech sector to new heights.

“Pike was the coach who helped lead that. Then, of course, over the next 40 years, he was the one that we in the community turned to constantly. He’s a guy who, when I say that he traced the play, he made sure the plays were executed, ”Watson said.“ He was working all the time and he was constantly on the move. Not just in creating ideas, but in getting the job done and networking and making sure the right people who could take that action through were aware and involved. “

This is a sentiment shared by Farmer. He said Powers was key to recruiting MCC in Austin, which became a major advertisement for Austin’s research capabilities and boosted the University of Texas’ engineering and computer science programs. Farmer also credited Powers with landing Sematech five years later.

“Pike Powers was our secret sauce,” Farmer said. “He just had the ability to bring people together to perform for the common good.”

Farmer said Powers was a catalyst in bringing people together and keeping them engaged.

“He was the magnet, he was the glue, he was the guide,” Farmer said. “Really, no one will really understand the incredible importance of the role Pike played. He was the catalyst in bringing people together and pushing people beyond their usual reach. He got them to engage and stay. engaged, to take the punches when there were setbacks. He did it all. And he did it his way with a sparkle in his eyes. “

Powers himself spent a number of years in the House. It was there that he also worked with Carol Thompson, founder of business development consulting firm Thompson Group and former president of the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

“Pike was everywhere. He did it all and he was tireless,” said Thompson, who worked with Powers on recruiting efforts through the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Thompson said Powers’ personal mission is to make Austin the tech hub it is today.

“When we went to California for the first economic development trip in the late 1980s, we would visit companies like Apple or Applied Materials and he would only give them his Chamber of Commerce card. He represented the city. and he knew he was there on a mission and it was Austin, ”she said.

Powers was a relationship builder regardless of the background or beliefs of the person he worked with, said Peter Mills, former venture capitalist and Austin economic development veteran.

“He was really bipartisan, which unfortunately doesn’t exist a lot anymore,” Mills said. “He could come and go down the aisle with great ease.”

“Think big and reach high”

Mills met Powers in the mid-1980s when they were involved in economic development at the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

“We just became running buddies. We were lucky that everyone else involved in the bedroom kind of let us go,” Mills said. “Pike was a guy who knew how to think big, reach the top and approach economic development in a whole different way.”

Mills says it was Powers’ ability to forge relationships that allowed him to land economic development projects that many thought were impossible.

Mills pointed out that Powers’ work to make MCC, and then Sematech, really key moments in Austin’s biggest technological evolution. At the time, Austin was home to manufacturing plants run by IBM and Motorola, but was not considered one of America’s major tech hubs.

“Pike has always had such love for the state of Texas, central Texas and Austin. He was always thinking of ways to make it better than he is,” Mills said.

Laura Kilcrease, former executive of Austin’s tech scene and founder of the Austin Technology Incubator, said Powers saw the potential of technology to put Austin on the map.

“Pike Powers embodied Texans’ desire to believe in a better place to live,” Kilcrease said. “After his stint in Governor (Mark) White’s office, technology came to the forefront of his mind as a means of making Austin a global center of excellence.”

Kilcrease, now CEO of Alberta Innovates, which provides government funding for research in Western Canada, said Powers has a huge drive to make the city a renowned tech hub.

“Pike was stubborn in his desire to create something bigger and better in technology than what had come before him. mission, ”Kilcrease said. “He coaxed, persuaded, asked everyone for help to accomplish his mission and we are all better off.”

Powers is survived by his wife Pam, daughter Shannon, son Pike and four grandchildren. Memorial service plans are not yet available, but Powers’ family have said he will be buried in the Texas State Cemetery.

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