Ludlum VP testifies before Congress on need for high-skilled immigration reform

April 6, 2012

Dr. Ron Cohen, President and CEO, Acorda Therapeutics, Mr. Mick Truitt, Vice President, Ludlum Measurements, Inc., Mr. Thomas M. Brandt, Jr., Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, TeleCommunication Systems, Inc., and Mr. Richard A. Bendis, Interim CEO, BioHealth Innovation Inc., President and CEO, Innovation America testify to the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation about Fostering the U.S. Competitive Edge in Washington, DC, on March 27. Photos by Joshua Roberts

As one can imagine, there are not a lot of electronics engineers with experience in the radiation detection industry that happen to live in the small town of Sweetwater, waiting to be employed. So when a Mexican engineer who had an undergraduate engineering degree and a graduate business degree from the University of Texas accepted an offer of employment from Ludlum Measurements Inc., Ludlum Vice President Mick Truitt was thrilled.
“It is exceedingly hard to find qualified, highly educated professionals who want to live in a small West Texas community. We had never had an engineer with an MBA even apply to join our company, so having this skill set in our engineering corps was a great asset,” Truitt wrote in testimony to be submitted during his March 27 appearance before the House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation.
Truitt testified before Congress on this issue as a representative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Other CEOs of U.S. technological companies also testified during that time.
The new engineer’s professional skill set seemed a perfect match for the needs of LMI. Therefore, the company expected a straightforward immigration process. However, to date, it has cost Ludlum Measurements over $17,500 in legal services to obtain and maintain lawful status for the engineer they hired back in 2008, who makes his home in Sweetwater.
Meanwhile, as a direct result of this hire, LMI, which sells products in 80 countries and has staff in two, has expanded its sales and distribution in Central America from a little under $200,000 to over $1 million annually. “Sometimes, when we expand our Sweetwater operations and hire more Americans, we also need a special, sophisticated skill set that we aren’t able to find in the U.S. labor market. Hiring a foreign national to fill this need shouldn’t be the confusing, difficult, and sometimes impossible hurdle it is under current law. Instead, there should be a means to facilitate our ability to hire the best qualified high-skilled professional we can get to come to Sweetwater, regardless of nationality,” Truitt wrote in his testimony.
While Truitt concedes that broad-based immigration reform is not doable before the end of the current election year, he says that there are areas where emerging consensus exists, particularly on action regarding foreign graduate students in the U.S. receiving Masters or Doctorates in natural sciences and engineering from U.S. universities. Allocating more green cards for permanent resident status of these scientists and engineers who have job offers would be very sensible, according to Truitt’s written testimony.
“To the extent we want to ensure that American businesses have full access to the skill sets needed to create and retain jobs here at home, a streamlined process to have access to professionals who have been trained here, speak English, are acclimated to our culture and our business and research practices, want to stay here, and have a job offer from a U.S. employer would be a good start,” Truitt explains in his testimony.

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