Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - February 12, 2010

Editorial: Heed warnings on Silicon Valley's future

New 'Index of Silicon Valley' shows disturbing signs of economic erosion and huge challenges to recovering area's historic economic/technical leadership

A conference in San Jose today is laying out some hard facts to several hundred government and business leaders.

The key message in this year's "Index of Silicon Valley" is that the Valley's future may be in trouble and there is no easy way back to its historic position of being a world leader in technological leadership.

As the Weekly's cover story this week shows, the bad news has many facets in the Index, an annual product of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Leadership Network organization. A big factor is that other economies, such as India and China, are now competing aggressively for a bigger slice of the world economic pie — and are wooing back the best and brightest of the foreign students who came to America to study, and stayed.

Even "cleantech" as a new era in Silicon Valley hasn't surged in terms of jobs or economic impact, as many had hoped. In fact, federal stimulus dollars in this important new industry are going elsewhere, to Alabama or Texas and other places that have lobbied for them with a unified voice of political, business, education and community leaders.

All is not gloom. The Valley has tremendous resources and world connections, and it remains a vital source of innovative endeavor and links to venture capital. The bottom-line warning is that the leadership of the Valley and California must realize they can't rest on past successes in this hard new world of international competition.

We must not allow our educational system to erode further, or our environmental and traffic problems to get worse, or our infrastructure to decay. These are huge problems that need a unified approach of many elements in our society, including divided political leaders, if we are to remain a player in the world economy. This is not a new warning.

The Joint Venture conference provides us clear, urgent handwriting on the wall. It is up to us to heed the message and demand better cohesion and focus of our local, county and state leaders instead of blame games and political posturing for short-term gain, as they deal with our future.

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