Thursday, September 18, 2014

Interstate 79 is NOT devoid of reason

About a year ago, around the time of the Federal government shutdown and the BART strike, I wrote a post entitled "Silicon Valley is Devoid of Reason, the Monday Edition." It quoted from Chamath Palihapitiya, who was convinced that San Francisco and Silicon Valley were the center of the universe and that "the functional value of government is effectively discounted to zero."

Some technologists, however, act like grownups:

As a lot of Washington reporters are fond of pointing out, the smart companies are the ones that learn to engage bureaucrats rather than circumvent them. Whether that's really true is an open question, but the evidence certainly seems to point in that direction. Google has famously become one of the country's biggest corporate lobbyists, yes, but it's funding think tank research, nonprofits and advocacy groups, too. Netflix, sensing a threat to its business in the debate over net neutrality, has proven remarkably active on that issue. And of course, there are companies like Uber, Aereo and Airbnb, which have all staked their future on battling laws that restrict their activities.

This can also be seen in those who are searching for the next Silicon Valley. If you believe Stephen Morris, the next Silicon Valley will be found in...West Virginia.

“I see this whole Clarksburg/Morgantown corridor, Fairmont, to me I have to imagine similar types of things were happening in California in the 1970s as it led up to the advent of the computer and the whole Silicon Valley,” Morris said. “In a lot of ways, private industry and these individuals that have these high technical degrees and stuff, they’re pioneers when they come here.”

Morris is the Assistant Director at the FBI's CJIS Division; among other things, the CJIS Division handles the FBI's huge database of fingerprints, palmprints, facial images, and other biometric data. (DISCLOSURE: My employer provides services for the FBI.) The CJIS Division happens to be headquartered in West Virginia, a state once represented by powerful U.S. Senator Robert Byrd. And because the CJIS Division is in West Virginia, other companies are in West Virginia.

Morgantown’s economic strength is attributed to the presence of the type of employers least vulnerable to business trends: universities, health care centers and government agencies.

Many of those jobs can be found along West Virginia’s High Technology Corridor. This 73-mile stretch along Interstate 79 is home to the world’s largest cluster of biometric and identity security firms....

A native of Harrison County, [Pamela] Alonge graduated from WVU with a bachelor’s degree in software development. Her job search took her to Washington, D.C., nearly 20 years ago.

“At the time, I was not aware of many software development opportunities here,” she said. “Although we visited as often as possible, I missed my family here and the beauty of the state.”

In 2007, she heard that Lockheed Martin Corp. had jobs available providing information technology operations and maintenance services for the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services division in Clarksburg, W.Va.

Meanwhile, people in Silicon Valley are talking about privacy - not to guarantee that the companies themselves won't get into user data, but to try to guarantee that the government won't get into user data.

But they're thousands of miles away from the real action.
blog comments powered by Disqus