SAN JOSE, Calif.-- Either cry babies or canaries in the coal mine?
You could approach the rising chorus of gloom and doom here about the
future of California, and Silicon Valley, with that question.
Intel CEO Paul Otellini this week, quoted in a Wall
Street Journal story by Deborah Gage, bemoaned the state of State of California,
summoning the dreaded comparison to Greece:
“Oh, God. I was born and raised here. I’m fifth or
sixth generation. It’s one of the nicest pieces of real estate
on the planet, and we’re so close to screwing it up, it’s
pathetic. I’d like to be bullish, but I worry that we have to
hit the abyss before we can fix things, and I worry that the
abyss will be more like Greece.”
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For another perspective, I
chatted byphone with Cypress Semiconductor CEO T.J. Rodgers, as he
munched his lunch in his office here.
Rodgers seldom pulls punches: "California is
one of the most
hostile places to do business on the face of the earth," he asserted.
These aren't new sentiments, and you could argue that the captains
of industry are raising hell to lower the cost of doing business and
ultimately boost profits. But you never heard that in the 1960s from
Dave Packard, despite the turbulence of those times. In the 1930s,
there was the Great Depression and enormous labor strife up and down
the West Coast, yet business still came west. Hewlett-Packard
emerged from its garage. The Varian brothers and so many other
startups flourished in that and subsequent decades.
Somewhere, though, we cut ourselves and began a slow bleed we've
ignored. Today, for example, there's no silicon in Silicon Valley,
as Rodgers likes to say. Manufacturing's gone. Packaging and test?
Gone. Rodgers was the last man standing in Silicon Valley when it
came to having his own packaging facility. He finally moved it
overseas when costs got to be too much.
He had a fab too, at the company's North First Street location here. He
sold it. The company that bought, just closed it. Slow bleed.
"People are on the street and the lights are off," Rodgers said.
Today, just 500 of Cypress' 3,500 employees work in the Silicon
Valley. Down the street at Altera Corp., the percentage of San
Jose-based engineers is higher, but the businesses have their differences, their different staffing requirements. Nevertheless, at one
point, both companies had 100 percent of their employees in the
Valley. Slow bleed.