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posted by martyb on Friday January 14, @04:23PM   Printer-friendly

The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley:

POLITICAL LEADERS HAVE been trying to replicate Silicon Valley’s high-tech magic since the invention of the microchip. A tech-curious Charles de Gaulle, then president of France, toured Palo Alto in his convertible limousine in 1960. Russian Federation President Dmitri Medvedev dressed business casual to meet and tweet with Valley social media tycoons in 2010. Hundreds of eager delegations, foreign and domestic, visited in between. “Silicon Valley,” inventor and entrepreneur Robert Metcalfe once remarked, “is the only place on earth not trying to figure out how to become Silicon Valley.”

In the US, too, leaders have long tried to engineer another Silicon Valley. Yet billions of dollars of tax breaks and “Silicon Something” marketing campaigns later, no place has matched the original’s track record for firm creation and venture capital investment—and these efforts often ended up benefiting multinational corporations far more than the regions themselves. Wisconsin promised more than $4 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn in 2017, only to see plans for a $10 billion factory and 13,000 jobs evaporate after hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars had already been spent to prepare for Foxconn’s arrival. Amazon’s 2017 search for a second headquarters had 238 American cities falling over each other to woo one of the world’s richest corporations with tax-and-subsidy packages, only to see HQ2 go to two places Amazon likely would have chosen anyway because of their preexisting tech talent. One of the winners, Northern Virginia, promised Amazon up to $773 million in state and local tax subsidies—a public price tag for gleaming high-tech towers that seems especially steep as Amazon joins other tech giants in indefinitely pushing back post-pandemic plans to return to the office.

While the American tech industry is vastly larger than it used to be, the list of top tech clusters—the Bay Area, Seattle, Boston, Austin—has remained largely unchanged since the days of 64K desktop computers and floppy disks. Even the disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic have done little to alter this remarkably static and highly imbalanced tech geography.

[...] It wasn’t just tech policy that made these regions what they are, however. Social spending mattered too. In the prosperous postwar years, the GI Bill sent millions of veterans to college and helped them buy homes. States like California enlarged public higher education systems, making it easy to obtain a low-cost, top-flight university education. Schools and local infrastructure were well-funded, especially in the growing suburbs that many tech people and companies called home.

[...] The US government had a transformative impact on high-tech development when its leaders were willing to spend big money on research, advanced technology, and higher education—and keep at it for quite some time.

[...] The next Silicon Valley will not come from a race to the bottom, from who can offer the most tax cuts, the leanest government, the loosest regulations. It will result from the kind of broad, sustained public investment that built the original Valley.


Why do you think "Silicon Valleys" elsewhere did not become as successful?

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  • (Score: 2) by tekk on Friday January 14, @04:39PM (2 children)

    by tekk (5704) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 14, @04:39PM (#1212691)

    To a certain extent yeah, we'll see how many companies manage to wiggle out of everyone quitting in favor of full time remote. Until recently with offices as the norm it was still definitely a thing. The main ploy of SV was the research aspect, I dunno how closely those places were actually tied to the manufacturing end which has largely been parceled out by this point.

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  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @05:45PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @05:45PM (#1212710)

    Parent said:
    "The main ploy of SV was the research aspect, I dunno how closely those places were actually tied to the manufacturing end ..."

    You must be young. Silicon Valley was where the semiconductors were MADE, hence the "Silicon" in Silicon Valley. All gone now, as you noted. Design and manufacturing were all done there by American companies. Now "Silicon" Valley makes software to spy on you to sell ads. Maybe it should be renamed "Spyware Valley."

    • (Score: 2) by tekk on Friday January 14, @07:11PM

      by tekk (5704) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 14, @07:11PM (#1212740)

      You got me :)

      It was all overseas by the time I was able to pay attention. I knew Commodore in West Chester had its hardware end closely tied since MOS was on the same campus. Didn't know about over in SV.