House lawmakers examine how to keep app economy growing

"Through American innovation and ingenuity, we're rapidly becoming a world where there's literally an app for everything," she said.

During the hearing, lawmakers heard time and again from industry representatives on the witness panel that mobile app companies - -both large and small -- struggle to recruit workers with the skill set needed to fill their open developer positions.

Peter Farago, vice president of marketing at San Francisco-based Flurry, said his start-up currently had 50 job positions open but is struggling to fill them because the pool of workers equipped with the necessary skill requirements is too small. He said lawmakers should ensure that app developers have access to an educated workforce and are able "to keep and bring talent in the U.S."

"We literally we cannot find the talent we need fast enough to fill all the open positions we have," he said.

Farago also noted that app use is booming worldwide, so developers need to learn how to create apps for markets outside of the United States, such as China and India.

Rey Ramsey, president of tech trade group TechNet, echoed this call for policies focused at building a high-skilled engineering workforce. That would include efforts aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship at community colleges and outreach to women and minority groups interested in building apps, Ramsey said.

"If there's an entrepreneur out there, and she's saying, 'I could get into that too' … Where could she go in our communities and our society to get in the game?" he said.

Stephanie Hay, co-founder of app developer FastCustomer, noted that initiatives aimed at building a skilled workforce of app engineers need to include more outreach to women and mentoring.

"Most women I've met have always had another woman or man mentor them, bringing them into the tech scene," she said.

Another challenge facing app companies is the looming spectrum crunch and lack of broadband Internet in rural regions of the United States, the industry representatives said. 

Ramsey argued that there needs to be right infrastructure in place to handle the rising population of mobile apps. That includes ensuring there is enough spectrum, or airwaves, for mobile apps to run on and reach consumers.

He called the spectrum crunch "a big issue."

"It'd be one of those things that would circumvent the growth in this area if we don't solve that issue," Ramsey said.

The House Energy and Commerce subpanel on communications and technology will examine the issue of freeing up more government and commercial spectrum at a hearing on Thursday.

Morgan Reed, executive director of the Association for Competitive Technology, also called on lawmakers to update laws governing privacy in the cloud. ACT is a trade group comprising app developers, and counts Microsoft and Oracle among them.

He said "antiquated" laws often prevent exciting app products from getting off the ground .

"We ask all members of Congress to help us as an industry with [Electronic Communications Privacy Act] reform," Reed said.