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Leveraging OSA’s Government Relations to Promote Your OIDA Member Company

By Trenton Berg, President, Montana Photonics Industry Alliance


OSA Industry Development Associates (OIDA) programming, research, and analyses often look closely within topics of interest to our membership. But our cluster, the Montana Photonics Industry Alliance (MPIA) also provides excellent resources for reaching outside our community to influence policies, funding, and strategic initiatives that directly impact optoelectronic science and technology.

With heightened public attention on the critical roles R&D, education, and technology investments hold for our economy and public health, now is the perfect time for OIDA members to take part in this advocacy programming.

Caption: Participants of the 2020 Montana Photonics Industry Alliance round table include: Trenton Berg, President, Montana Photonics Industry Alliance; Jason Yager, VP, Montana Photonics Industry Alliance; Tim Sheehy, President/CEO, Ascent Vision Technologies; Mary Johnson, President/CEO, Wavelength Electronics; Randy Equall, VP of Laser Operations, FLIR Systems; Craig Wall, Market Development Scientist, Montana Instruments; Kris Merkel, President/CEO, S2 Corporation; Jay Wilkins, Operations and Engineering Manager, Elemental Scientific Lasers

Credit: Montana Photonics Industry Alliance 

Allocating even a small amount of time and effort to policy outreach can yield remarkably positive results. OIDA members can leverage their resources by working with OSA’s Washington DC-based staff to handle the extensive work that goes into advocacy events, including logistics, message development, and publicity. Importantly, OSA/OIDA works to ensure your issues and needs command the attention of government agencies whose decisions drive activities in the US and influence countries around the world.

A 2020 MPIA event highlights how advances are made through these kinds of efforts. Early in 2020, the National Photonics Initiative (NPI), founded and led by OSA and SPIE, worked hand in hand with the MPIA to organize a roundtable discussion with U.S. Senator Steve Daines. Leading Montana-based optics and photonics companies and education institutions took part in this event, which focused on the burgeoning growth of the sector and ways in which federal support can assure more significant expansion. The messages from industry resonated with the Senator, who later said, “I think that many Montanans aren’t aware of how important this industry is and what it’s doing for our economy, for healthcare, for defense, for communications.” Daines continued, “This is Montana innovation, right here in our state. These are products invented and made by Montanans.” The visit appeared in multiple local media outlets, further raising our industry’s visibility.

Connecting legislators with growth-minded companies for practical discussions can spark major developments. One of the biggest discussions during the Montana meeting focused on the contributions local colleges can make to the growth of photonics across the state. Gallatin College at Montana State University currently has a photonics and laser technology associates of applied science program providing the local industry with highly-trained technicians, and Montana State University has robust photonics research centers such as Spectrum Lab and The Optical Technology Center (OpTeC) who is seeking to establish an engineering research center focused on photonics. Sen. Daines said he planned to initiate legislation to increase research in the industry. He made good on this promise by becoming one of four co-chairs of an Optics and Photonics Caucus on Capitol Hill, and we expect him to continue to be an ardent supporter of our community.

Now is a great time to join fellow OIDA members to promote our industry’s contributions and needs in ways that will have both local and national impact. To get started, please contact David Lang, Senior Director, Government Relations, email: dlang@osa.org. For more information about the MPIA, please contact Trenton Berg: trent@montanaphotonics.org.

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Posted: 11 February 2021 by Trenton Berg, President, Montana Photonics Industry Alliance | with 0 comments

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