Austin Technology Visionary Pike Powers Dies

Austin’s technology industry wouldn’t be what it is today without Pike Powers.

Powers put the silicon into the Silicon Hills and the Austin technology industry on the map when he helped to bring the headquarters of Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp., known as MCC to Austin in 1983.

Powers, 80, died Sunday but his legacy lives on.

“Pike was without a doubt one of the architects of Austin’s emergence as a technology center,” Henry Cisneros, former Mayor of San Antonio, said in a statement. “He was a bridge between the founders of Austin’s early technology companies on one side and state leaders, high education officials, and local government on the other.”

In a panel discussion at SXSW a few years ago, Powers recounted how the region worked collaboratively to bring MCC to Austin in 1983, followed by SEMATECH in 1988. Powers got recruited in the effort by Cisneros, Gen. Robert McDermott, and a group in San Antonio. When San Antonio didn’t make MCC’s final list, San Antonio backed Austin and helped it land MCC, Powers said during the panel discussion.

“He saw Austin’s potential early, set about to organize the

leadership, and was tireless in his willingness to personally do the behind-the-scenes preparation,” Cisneros said. “Those early breakthroughs that proved the concept…like SEMATECH and MCC…would not have happened without Pike’s action-oriented optimism and skill.”

Austin had a small tech industry before MCC with an IBM plant that made typewriters, Texas Instruments’ transistor radio plant and Motorola built a chip-making plant in Austin in 1973. But MCC put Austin on the map of the technology industry. It led to Applied Materials and Samsung making big investments in chip-making plants in Austin. And those moves paved the way for Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook to follow.

“Pike was eternally positive about what Austin and Texas could become and did his part in making that dream into a reality” Laura Kilcrease, who was the founding director of the Austin Technology Incubator at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement.

Powers, who is from Beaumont and graduated from Lamar University and the University of Texas Law School, is a former member of the Texas House of Representatives, representing Jefferson County. In 1983, he served as chief of staff to Texas Governor Mark White.

“It was in this role that Pike began his life-long work of advancing Texas’ and our region’s – high tech economy” Laura Huffman, President of Austin Chamber of Commerce, wrote in a blog post. “He receives, and deservedly so, a great deal of credit for turning our college town into a major global hub for technology and innovation.”

In addition to MCC, Powers later helped to create the State of Texas Enterprise Fund in 2003 and the Emerging Technology Fund in 2005.

“Pike served as Chamber Board Chair in 1989 and earned the distinct honor of Austinite of the Year in 2005,” Huffman said. “As a tireless advocate for economic development, he was never satisfied with yesterday’s successes. He constantly pursued how the Austin region and the University of Texas could lead the next wave of innovation or the newest generation of technology.”

In 2017, the Texas Legislative Conference named Powers the Texan of the Year.

Powers was a longtime managing partner of the Austin office of Fulbright and Jaworski, now Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP.

“His legacy and leadership will never be forgotten, and our region is incredibly lucky to have been touched by such an influential leader in our community,” Huffman said. “We will miss Pike, but his legacy will be intertwined with Austin’s success for generations to come.”