Silicon Valley is and will continue to be the world’s epicenter of technology innovation and entrepreneurship.
It’s very small but extremely diverse population of 2.9 million residents enjoy the second highest per capita income (only DC is slightly ahead) and highest educated people in the U.S. It’s 1.3 million workforce is anchored in tech industry and supporting industries of retail, education, healthcare, financial services, construction and government.
It is the home of many of world’s largest global companies like HP, Apple, Intel, Cisco, Oracle, Google and eBay.
And it is also a hotbed of new startups numbering in the thousands. It receives nearly 40% of all venture capital invested in the U.S. This translates roughly into funding four companies daily to the tune of $30 million daily in new investments.
Blessed with the finest climate and world-renowned universities, and a highly skilled and innovative technology talent pool, the Valley continues to attract entrepreneurs from many states and foreign countries.
All this has resulted in wealth and prosperity for its businesses and residents.
By all surveys and news reports, it is felt that the presidential race is extremely tight, with both candidates, President Obama and Governor Romney, relentlessly campaigning. President Obama has been extremely visible over the last five years to the American and Silicon Valley voters, whereas Governor Romney became nationally and internationally more visible since the first debate. I now believe the voters are a lot more informed about these two fine candidates. But the choice is quite stark: President Obama with his soaring rhetoric and lofty promises, has delivered less than acceptable results. He himself admitted to the “Shellacking” his party received during the mid-term elections in 2010. It is anticipated that his party will lose the house again. Governor Romney is reminding voters about the President’s record and offering his version of solutions to nagging issues facing American citizens and businesses.
With this backdrop, let me comment on the major issues Silicon Valley is facing and which candidate has a favorable edge, if any.
1. Trade and Tariff: Silicon Valley companies doing global business need a fair and freer foreign trade policy, supported by lower taxes on foreign income by American businesses. Getting the U.S. Trade representative, Department of Commerce and State Department to work more in unison could help. Governor Romney is favored here.
3. Tax System Simplification and lowering corporate and individual tax rates: Who does not want this to happen? With higher investment incomes by Valley individuals and carried interest income by VC firms, lowering of capital gains taxes is favored by Governor Romney.
4.Technology and Innovation: Both President Obama and Governor Romney get it; however the presidents’ record on making the R&D tax credit permanent is not there. Also SOPA and PIPA acts that failed miserably could resurface, pitting Silicon Valley against Hollywood, where the President has a huge following. I think Governor Romney has an edge here.
5. Talent Shortage: Silicon Valley has faced talent shortage for a long-time and almost every company from grownups to startups has to employ more immigrant talent on H1B Visas or outsource work to Canada, Mexico, India , China and other countries. We do have the availability of foreign skilled talent coming out of our finest universities but the visa system is making it much harder for them to be employed here. Major tech company CEOs and University presidents have been testifying and sounding an alarm, proposing stapling of Green Cards to their diplomas but it continues to fall on deaf ears in Congress and President Obama’s. Governor Romney could have an edge here.
6.Training Workers for technology jobs and graduating more STEM students: This is absolutely necessary for Silicon Valley and America to compete and excel in the world. The president’s plan to add over 100,000 math and science teachers through federal efforts when the education is a local matter may not be the answer. Perhaps a tax credit to businesses, teachers and families may work.
7. Trust in our elected officials: U.S. Congress has the lowest rating by the American public, Silicon Valley included. This has been evidenced by constant bickering, name calling and playing the blame game. President Obama promised to fix Washington when he first campaigned for the White House. With full control of House and Senate during the first two years, he was unable to make much progress and the gridlock continues. If he wins a second term, how can his leadership be different? How can he seek and secure compromise? Will he resort to vetoes and executive orders? If Governor Romney wins, could he pull-off his Massachusetts Miracle he talks about?
8. Diversity: This is an important characteristic of Silicon Valley. Diversity in ethnicity, gender, race , religion and political beliefs. As a father (and grandfather) of women and girls, I should acknowledge that President Obama’s position is the clear leader on women’s issues and social issues. As an immigrant who has a wide circle of friends of diverse backgrounds, the social issues (which should be non-issues at this point) that the president supports are reflective of the diverse nature of Silicon Valley.
Having said the above, let me state that I am a proud American. Coming to the U.S. in 1967 as a graduate student and having lived here continuously for 45 years, 35 of which are in Silicon Valley, I must say that this is the best country in the world. It is a land of opportunity. Immigrants made America and America made the immigrants. This is where, when you come in, you feel welcome, play your part, make your contribution and share in the rewards of your hard work and good attitude. It’s amazing how sometimes many lose sight of it! My hats-off to Silicon Valley where one-third of us were born in another country, and have assimilated so well here.