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Lautenberg pushes tech entrepreneurs to enter mobile apps space

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A bill to be introduced by U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-Cliffside Park) and an inter-university mobile apps contest launched today by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski aim to re-establish New Jersey as a technological innovation hub, and connect private investments with entrepreneurs to create new companies and jobs in the technology sector.

"The state of New Jersey has a long, proud parentage of scientific and technological advancement that includes Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein, who lived and worked here in Bell Labs," Lautenberg said at a press event today at Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken. "The bill I will introduce next week will make sure that science and technology students get practical training in business development, so that they can build New Jersey companies, and build New Jersey jobs."

In the legislation, Lautenberg aims to establish an American Innovation Bank to leverage federal investments into new products, companies and jobs, and provide federally supported graduate students with industry-related training.

"The university is a key element, since businesses need graduates who can work in the new economy," said Michael Mandel, the chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute. "Businesses are already adapting to the apps economy, so graduates just need to be technically literate to fit into businesses' needs and get into the work force."

According to Mandel, New Jersey is home to 4.2 percent of the 466,000 new jobs created in the apps economy since the introduction of the iPhone by Apple Inc., in 2007. The state ranks fifth in the country for concentration of mobile apps jobs, and it is part of the No. 1 metropolitan area for app-related job growth. According to Lautenberg, the growth in the mobile apps economy partially stems from companies' recognition that it is now more important to have an app than a website.

"Today, growth is measured in the number of apps downloaded, instead of the number of cars sold or homes built," Mandel said. "The apps economy is creating jobs and changing the way we live. New Jersey has the skills and resources to become the star of the apps economy."

To start capitalizing on the state's place in the mobile apps economy, Stevens President Nariman Farvardin announced the school's plans to partner with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and other stakeholders to create a mobile apps technology startup hub in the Mile Square City. According to Farvardin, the incubator will provide students and graduates from Stevens, Rutgers University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology with mentorship from established entrepreneurs and assistance with operating costs.

"Innovation is a vital contributor to economic growth and job creation," Genachowski said. "Communications technology has the power to transform lives for the better, and help drive economy."

To help the state's technology community build its business skills, the FCC launched the "New Jersey Apps Challenge," which gives students, faculty members and alumni from the state's technology-focused universities the opportunity to design innovative, market-ready apps. The winner will get to pitch his or her idea to Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley.

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