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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: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @09:35PM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @09:35PM (#1212775)

    You're not supposed to mention defense spending. The leftist media always credits acid-dropping hippies: their own kind. Never mind how an acid-dropping hippie is supposed to design and manufacture the microprocessor he writes the software to run on.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Rich on Friday January 14, @09:48PM (4 children)

    by Rich (945) on Friday January 14, @09:48PM (#1212780) Journal

    Oh, you're ALSO going to need the acid-dropping hippies for new ideas to get stuff for free. Intel catered to boring calculator companies with their first micro, Motorola made the 6800 be for industrial controls. It took the hobbyists to build themselves cheap computers "like the big expensive ones". And one particularly obsessive, sociopathic, acid dropping hippy to package that stuff for general consumption. The rest is history and just crossed $3tn in market cap. Serious business people would never have thought to cannibalize themselves by offering cheap computers for everyone.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @10:11PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @10:11PM (#1212784)

      Steve Wozniak was not an acid dropping hippie. I know he's been "forgotten" but without him, Apple would never have happened. He designed the computer all by himself. Steve Jobs just sold them. So it took the pair to make Apple succeed, but could you at least mention Woz?

      • (Score: 2) by Rich on Saturday January 15, @12:11AM (2 children)

        by Rich (945) on Saturday January 15, @12:11AM (#1212804) Journal

        could you at least mention Woz?

        He was included in the "hobbyists" part. Probably the best of them.

        Long time ago, I reverse engineered the Woz Machine and wrote firmware for the re-creation, which ended up together with a 6502 in a standalone floppy drive with a serial connection. I think mostly for SGI workstations in a textile manufacturing market niche, where knitting machines were driven by custom Apple II setups and the "industry standard" to pass to production were Apple II DOS 3.3 disks. A friend wrote the logic for DOS 3.3 file access that completed the product. From that point of view, I would've had to include Randy Wigginton as well. :)

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, @01:43AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, @01:43AM (#1212825)

          Just a nitpick: a hobbyist is someone who does something in his own time for his personal enjoyment -- not something he does for a living. Woz was employed as a digital electronics engineer for Hewlett Packard, so I would not call him just a hobbyist.

          Interesting anecdotes!

          • (Score: 2) by Rich on Saturday January 15, @02:07AM

            by Rich (945) on Saturday January 15, @02:07AM (#1212834) Journal

            If I remember the lore right, he did offer his definitely hobbyist inventions to HP, but they weren't interested.

            When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro