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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, Interesting) by VLM on Friday January 14, @06:13PM (1 child)

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 14, @06:13PM (#1212721)

    Austin—has remained largely unchanged since the days of 64K desktop computers and floppy disks

    My understanding of Austin, never having lived there, is in the 70s there was a HUGE push for music trying to steal the Nashville effect from Nashville, then in the 80s they had a huge economic problem with the savings and loan scam real estate bubble, then right around the turn of the century it financially recovered and tech companies just barely started moving in, arriving in precisely on time for the dot-com crash, and then GW Bush as part of transition from governor to president made some deals that began to kick Austin into high gear WRT tech.

    I also heard a long rant along the lines of the usual gentrification problems where Austin used to be "cool and unique" but all the interesting places and interesting people of the 60s and 70s were kicked out around the turn of the century by exploding rents and replaced by soul-less corporate drones whom ironically only came there because of the "cool and unique" people whom are now long since kicked out and gentrified away so in his opinion in his parents days in the 60s Austin was super cool but now its boring soul less corporate land almost as cultureless and devoid of life as downtown Manhattan or LA, best avoided if possible. Or in summary, he's not a fan of recent developments in Austin, recent in the sense of post 1970s era.

    That's what I heard from my coworker. Texans are kinda like pilots or vegetarians where you'll never wonder if someone's a Texan, a pilot, or a vegetarian because they won't shut the F up about it. Which in this case means I know a little Texas lore about Austin, some of it possibly even true.

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  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @08:09PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @08:09PM (#1212750)

    I lived several years in Austin in the late 80s. Loved the place, but I was in my early 20s and my weekly food budget was about $20, so I really got to know the city's nooks and crannies and where all the cool free stuff was, so I really developed an affection for the place. I'm told now that it is a much different place. The airport moved out of the city, a HUGE convention center popped up, etc., and that the place really lost its unique charm. I'll have to go back someday and see, but being 30 years older, I'm sure it won't have the same allure, not getting to look at it through twenty-two-year-old optimistic eyes. I'm sure eventually Ken's Donuts will turn into a Dunkin and the Iron Works BBQ will become a Ruby Tuesdays (thankfully it looks like both of them are still there) and Austin will have completely regressed to the mean, but hopefully that time is still a ways away.

    Texans are kinda like pilots or vegetarians where you'll never wonder if someone's a Texan, a pilot, or a vegetarian because they won't shut the F up about it.

    OMG, that is WAY too funny, and WAY too true (I've known all three types!). But remember that Austin was always the island of liberalism and other evils, as seen by the rest of the state. When I lived there, I met a young lady who grew up in Waco, not too far up the highway, and she told me her mother had great reservations in sending her to Austin for school because Austin was filled with Catholics and other undesirables.