I was in Ireland last week with a group of Silicon Valley executives and venture capitalists when a chapter from the past came to mind. It concerned the groundbreaking for a new venture launched in Ireland in 1988 by a Silicon Valley pioneer, the venerable Intel, which I attended along with a group of Irish leaders, the American Ambassador, and the eminent Dr. Gordon Moore. It was to be the beginning of what would become the roaring Celtic Tiger that transformed that small island. Intel would rise as the model for Silicon Valley’s rapid expansion in Ireland and Europe. It was good for Ireland and good for our Valley.
Following that meeting, a friend of mine sent me a speech by Craig Barrett, Intel’s chairman and the talented successor to the giants, Moore and Noyce, and he gave some of the best advise that I believe San Jose could receive at this critical juncture in our history. It goes like this: ” At Intel, we worry about what we can control. We can’t control the world economy, but we can control our level of investment in research and development and new products.”
This is exactly the attitude and approach that San Jose needs in very tough times, and we should learn from the best.
Our investments as a city must be prudent. We must be innovative. We need to monitor how we spent money in our investments, and as importantly, where we spent it. One emphasis must become investment in job creation where putting our dollars prompts others to invest.
Our R&D budget must be focused in our Redevelopment areas, Downtown, and in the sales tax-producing areas of our local economy—major shopping centers and nodules of commercial activity must be primed. This can be accomplished in a number of ways—telescoping incubator space investment, sponsorship of corporate expansion, and assistance to the backbone of our economy, our small businesses. Keep pushing new products and new ideas is the mantra for San Jose. Be bold.
Choices must be made.
It is time to analyze how many capital facilities, parks, libraries, community centers, we can support with a budget that is greatly stressed. This is a key decision, along with prudent investments of merit that must occur. It is not a time for business as usual. Look at the many changes that Intel has made in an ever-changing world of adapt-or-perish that is our entrepreneurial valley.
We cannot control the world economy, nor can we decide monetary policy. The way things have been going lately, I wonder if anyone is in charge. But if that is the condition, how much more important to take the admonishment of Barrett with the greatest of attention. Invest where we can with our own resources; don’t wait for others to bail us out; don’t grumble about the fates; sweep up in front of your business; keep putting one foot in front of the other. These are the toughest of times and we are the most resilient of valleys. Let’s adapt and keep it that way.