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The Next Silicon Valley? Part Three

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The Next Silicon Valley Part 3 --- The Future


Since the fall of the dotcoms at the end of the millenium, the Valley and places like Boston have entered yet another phase which does, to some extent, reflect Paul Graham's notions of a convergence of elite nerds and rich people . As such, tech centers such as Boston and the Bay Area also are inreasingly unable to create large numbers of new jobs , as the employment numbers and low growth rankings on Inc.'s "Best Places" list indicate . The absurd cost of housing, the aging infrastructure, and an almost reflexively anti-business politcial climate make the prospects for building large new companies --- in terms of local employment at least --- somewhat limited in these regons.

Clearly, places like Silicon Valley can no longer provide a job-creation role model for other regions --- as it was when I was covering it in back in the 70s, 80s and 90s . Instead Silicon Valley and Boston will evolve something like a gilded incubators and will also serve as a kind of Wall Street for the tech industry. Companies may be conceived and financed there, but won't be able to grow much. It's unlikely we will see many more Hewlett-Packards, with tens of thousands of local employees, emerge from this environment.

This 21st Century version of Silicon Valley won't provide much opportunity for an upwardly mobile middle class. Instead they will nurture a select cadre of super- bright graduate students and a small group of well-heeled adults . These elite groups will be served by others, mostly apartment dwelling young people and immigrants, who will strive to meet their expansive needs.

The inertia of past glories and accummulated capital , as in the 1990s, will alow these areas to nurture some new and innovative companies. But the bulk of the high tech work and the big benefits for communities likely will accrue elsewhere, as work shifts to places with more reasonable costs — and inhabited by techies and entrepreneurs somewhat less burdened by a lofty attitude about themselves.

So the issue for places seeking to grow their tech economies should no longer be learning how to become "the next Silicon Valley", but using their own assets to advantage. Basic message: stop mimicking, and start innovating at your own grassroots.

Last updated: Jun 5, 2006




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