I was listening. Crickets.
Silicon Valley Congressman Mike Honda, however, heard something that made his ears perk up: “manufacturing innovation hub.” He wants one, which likely puts him in line with 434 other House members.
“As you know, Silicon Valley is the epicenter of technology and innovation in the United States,” Honda, a Democrat, wrote to President Barack Obama, in case the president was hunting around for spots for the hubs. “What may not be recognized is the extent to which Silicon Valley is also experiencing a manufacturing resurgence. Nearly 18 percent of Silicon Valley’s jobs are in manufacturing, and the number is growing — the local manufacturing sector is projected to grow by five percent by 2018.”
It is a surprising cluster of facts. I laid out some of the reasons behind it in a series on Bay Area manufacturing.
In his State of the Union address, Obama said the federal government would establish three hubs to bring together universities, government and private industry to come up with new and better ways to make stuff.
And Obama said he’d like to create 15 of the hubs, but that idea hasn’t been embraced by Congress. (Honda says he’s on board, by the way.)
The idea of hubs — clusters of industries and their support structures — is widely accepted as a good idea. Brookings Senior Fellow Mark Muro wrote about it last summer and UC-Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti put forth a similar analysis in his book “The New Geography of Jobs.”
My first thought on reading Honda’s letter was: Silicon Valley hardly needs a government-sponsored manufacturing hub. It already is a manufacturing hub on its own.
But Honda saw that reaction coming. In his letter, he suggested that the valley would be an ideal place to explore new ways to manufacture semiconductor chips. Chip makers are moving to larger wafers — more chips per wafer — and they’re going to need new machines and methods to make their new chips.
Makes sense. Not to mention that would be one way to put the silicon back in Silicon Valley.
(Photo by Mercury News photographer Gary Reyes)