The Power of Powers IV
By: Dr. M. Ray Perryman
Published in syndication November 03, 2021
My dear friend, Pike Powers IV, recently succumbed to Parkinson's after a courageous struggle. Beyond the Austin area, you may not recognize his name, but he changed your life. He was the single most powerful force in turning Texas into an international technology powerhouse. His impact is unparalleled, and we are all beneficiaries.
In the early 1980s, as Texas was coming off an oil boom and facing a decade of devastation, Pike spearheaded the successful effort to attract Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC). The winner of this competition, which was much more intense than any we see today, would have a decided growth advantage.
As he began this quest, he reckoned that he would need a few numbers; thus, he contacted a kid with a shiny new econometric model. We immediately began a 40-year odyssey of collaboration, mischief, and good trouble spanning over 100 projects (and at least as many brutal – and hysterical – speech introductions).
When Pike championed MCC, Texas normally did not even compete for such things. Rich natural resource endowments had long insulated the state from the vicissitudes confronting other areas. The battle to bring this desperately needed diversification was as much one of convincing folks within Texas as of prevailing in the broader effort.
Pike possessed the skills of an extraordinary "deal-making" attorney, remarkable political acumen, an ability to forge consensus among disparate groups, an intellect to visualize a better future, and an uncanny knack for show-stopping presentations. He experienced personal and professional challenges that would have broken lesser souls, but never once lost his optimism or passion.
After MCC, his successes were many – Sematech, Samsung, Freescale, AMD, 3M, Applied Materials, and countless others. I was privileged to be along for the ride. When I did the "Texas, Our Texas" report that laid out a development strategy 20 years ago, Pike steered it through a legislative minefield. Later, we worked with others on the Texas Technology Initiative, which helped Texas evolve as emphasis shifted from chips and hardware to software, gaming, biosciences, materials science, and nanotechnology.
Even as his health deteriorated, his enthusiasm endured. On his good days, we discussed new ideas and initiatives. He was always focused forward. I had numerous opportunities to honor him of late as groups lauded his seminal achievements. Between the incessant mutual roasting, I sought to put his life in proper perspective, but likely never succeeded. I don't know that anyone could.
Texas continues to make strides, with a major cancer initiative; national laboratories; Army Futures Command; and impressive new locations in commercial space exploration, electric vehicles, and emerging energy technologies. Additional projects are progressing behind the scenes. The footprint constantly expands, but the fingerprints inevitably include those of Pike Powers.
The state will no doubt persist in its quest for global technology supremacy. No matter the height reached, however, it will always stand on the shoulders and rest in the shadow of a genuine Texas giant. Your spirit and legacy will never diminish, my brother. Stay safe!!