Originally Posted by Woochifer
The problem is that you're overplaying policy and politics, when the outcomes you describe are market-driven. What the hell do party politics and public employee unions have to do with the concentration of technology workers that live in Silicon Valley? If those factors are so overriding, then wouldn't it stand to reason that the highest value activities would move out of state too? Yes, it's expensive to live in Silicon Valley, and yes, the activities in Silicon Valley are very high value and employers are willing to pay the higher costs because that's where the talent (and technology suppliers, and centers of innovation, and venture capital) is.
You're overlooking the factors that drive Silicon Valley by fixating on the negatives about the state as a whole, many of which are not applicable to most of the SF Bay Area.
Despite the enormous increase in the role of the federal government since FDR, most of what impacts our lives come from the states we live in. States exist in their own right, being merely federated into the national government. Cities and clusters of cities like Silicon Valley are creations of a state. The laws that matter--like those against murder, rape and assault--are state laws. The prisons and schools are funded by the state. If California goes bad--as indeed it is--then no force on this earth is going to protect slices of that state. And the very prosperity of Silicon Valley means it will be Target #1 for tax increases. The needed money simply won't exist elsewhere. That's why, were I a Silicon Valley executive, I'd have an 'exit from the state' strategy ready to go. I wouldn't want to see my company destroyed by politics beyond my control.
In addition, there's nothing as mobile as talent. I can, in about two days, move what talent I possess almost anywhere in the world. If I own a factory, a store, or even a software development company, that's not true. There was far more reason for manufacturing to stay in the Great Lakes region than there is for high-tech to remain in Silicon Valley. And yet industry has moved. And now all the presence of all those immobile physical assets favor the industrializing South.
Don't downplay industry. When a Apple employee buys some models of Kia, Mitsubishi, Honda, Hyundai Toyota and Mercedes, he's contributing toward better schools in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. When I was a kid, no cars were made in Alabama. Now almost a million a year are. Even in our down economy, the multi-billion dollar Hyundai factory near Montgomery is running three shifts around the clock, making over 350,000 cars a year.
Those better schools then feed their own centers of innovation. I live in Auburn, Alabama and got my degree in electrical engineering a few years before Tim Cook did, also at Auburn. Then, the choices for engineering graduates in the entire South were very limited, mostly power plants, paper mills or aerospace in Huntsville. That's why it's not surprising that Tim Cooks went west. That's no longer true. There are a host of high-tech engineering jobs not just in the South but in an easy commute from Auburn itself. Starting this year, GE is making precision jet engine components in a 300,000 square foot facility in Auburn itself.
You're also making a mistake creating a money-talent circularity. Money can buy talent, you claim. Talent can create money, you believe, with all that staying confined to a specific region. Not so! Talent can be driven by other reasons, including talented Asians who rather remain in their homeland no matter how much Silicon Valley wants to pay. We'd talked about those having jingoism/patriotism about California. The Chinese can be as proud of seeing products labeled "Designed in China" as any Apple executive is about California.
For a historical parallel, forget Detroit. Even in its heyday, no one accused it of innovating anything but mass production techniques. Turn instead to New York and before that New England. Both were at one time centers of innovation. New York still calls itself the Empire State, which I assume refers to business empires. And we once talked about Yankee ingenuity as if that were a special, regional trait. Those have faded and so will that in the Silicon Valley. The only question is when.
That fade will happen all the more quickly if the region doesn't recognize the dangers it's facing, both from its own hubris and from what's happening in the rest of the state. I fear all night stands writing code, adolescent drugs, rock music, and who knows what else has left too many in Silicon Valley ignorant of what John Donne wrote long ago:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
Just because John Donne (1572-1631) never owned an iPhone, doesn't mean he was stupid. Apple's staff can chant "Designed in California" until their faces turn blue, but they cannot avoid being seriously impacted by what's happening in the darker and more dismal corners of their unfortunate state.
--Michael W. Perry, My Nights with Leukemia: Caring for Children with Cancer (yes, it's available from Apple)