photo of Washington Square Hall, home to the College of Social Sciences

SJSU Panel Discusses Tough Choices Shaping Silicon Valley’s Economic Future

photo of Washington Square Hall, home to the College of Social Sciences

Washington Square Hall

Did you know Canada is more open to teams of foreign professionals over the long term than the United States? Or that only 15 percent of Santa Clara County households can afford to buy median-price homes and our rental housing is unaffordable to 40 percent of those who seek it?

The impact of these trends and more on Silicon Valley will be discussed at the College of Social Sciences Dean’s Spring Symposium at 1:30 p.m. March 8 in King 225/229. This panel discussion will debate the economic future of Silicon Valley, focusing on diversity, immigration, economic development, and housing policy.

The panelists, drawing upon their recent work in the fields of anthropology, economics, spatial geography and urban development, propose to explore the interconnections, both topically and from the perspectives of their respective disciplines.

The discussion will be divided into two parts. In the first part, each panelist will present his or her work. Discussion, involving the panelists and the audience, will highlight and help articulate the tough choices that the region’s residents and policy makers need to make in the near future to retain its position as the global high-tech leader.

The Panelists and Their Work

Jan English-Lueck, Department of Anthropology Professor

In the stories Silicon Valley tells about itself, the region is a product of successive new disruptive technologies — integrated circuits, personal computers, software and internet applications and Web 2.0 — that periodically allow the region to “reinvent itself.” The story’s next chapter remains elusive, although clean tech is a primary candidate for regional economic reinvention.

Clean technology is a shifting landscape of governmental, academic and entrepreneurial ventures, each with different narratives, practices and goals. At the core of the story of disruptive technology production are the notions of innovation and creativity. Immigration is at the heart of these social forces.

English-Lueck is in her 20th year of tracking Silicon Valley cultures. She is the author of Cultures@Silicon Valley, and Being and Well-Being: Health and the Working Bodies of Silicon Valley. She is the co-author, with C. Darrah, of Busier than Ever! Why American Families Can’t Slow Down, on the working families of Silicon Valley.

Kathrine Richardson, Department of Geography Assistant Professor

U.S. competitiveness is directly connected to its openness to foreigners.  This suggests that low barriers to entry for talent increase a region’s productivity. Some U.S. high-technology firms are reacting to increasing U.S. restrictiveness in immigration by moving business elsewhere, such as Canada, that provide easier access for talent. Reasons cited for these firm migrations include that Canada is not only open to “star” scientists and engineers, but is also able to accommodate and retain entire teams of foreign professionals over the long term.

Richardson teaches courses in urban and economic geography.  Dr. Richardson’s research specializes in the mobility and retention of the globally highly skilled, with a focus on regional migrations within North America and transnational migrations between the Americas and the Asia Pacific.  She completed her Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia in 2006; her dissertation examined the movement of high technology and biotechnology professionals across the Canada-U.S. border.

Mike Pogodzinski, Department of Economics Professor

Silicon Valley is now a classic example of economies of localization — the tendency of firms in a particular industry to cluster geographically.  The economic rationale of clustering is that by locating close to each other firms in the same industry can operate at lower average costs:  clustering lowers all firms’ average costs.  This gain in efficiency occurs for several reasons, including exploiting scale economies in the provision of intermediate inputs and labor pooling.

Silicon Valley differs in several ways from the standard examples of localization economies:  it involves consideration of “knowledge economies” and important issues in public policy associated with workforce development — the training of workers to fill specific roles in emerging industries. Also, Silicon Valley is the center of several industry clusters:  high-tech, biotech, nanotech, clean/green tech. This highlights the importance of inter-industry links in the development of clusters.

Pogodzinski has written on issues of urban-public finance throughout his career. He is currently writing a book on Geographic Information Systems software and Economic Development Analysis with Rick Kos in the Urban and Regional Planning Department.

Shishir Mathur, Department of Urban and Regional Planning Associate Professor

The cost of housing is the single largest barrier to greater growth of high-tech industry in Silicon Valley. The Valley remains one of the most unaffordable places to live in the country. In Santa Clara County only 15 percent of the households can afford to buy the median priced home and the county’s rental housing is unaffordable to 40 percent of those who seek it. Affordability, variety and location of housing directly impact an area’s economic viability and quality of life. Silicon Valley has to seek innovative ways to accommodate this demand through promotion of in-fill development and higher density residential development that would, in turn, make public transit viable.

Mathur is an Associate Professor in the Urban and Regional Planning Department. He has studied and practiced planning in India as well as in the USA. In India he consulted in the fields of physical and land use planning, infrastructure planning, project management, architecture, and urban design. His professional work in the USA includes research, teaching and consulting in the fields of public finance, urban economics, housing, growth management, land use planning, infrastructure planning, strategic planning, and systems analysis.