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The Six Cities of Silicon Valley

Since the 1950s, Huntsville has been a tech center. This goes back to the U.S. Army’s transfer of 1,000 people from Fort Bliss to the area. The core of this group was 200 German scientists and engineers. Eventually, the German design team was spun off to become part of the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), transforming it from cotton capital to rocket capital to a high-technology hub. Huntsville is the most “top secret” of the sibling cities of Silicon Valley.


A “bucket list” trip for every American should be to traverse the Panama Canal. As you watch the water recede from the century-old magnificent solid-steel doors that constitute any one of the locks in the canal, observe the emergence of the proud message embedded on the door: “Made in Pittsburgh” (http://explorepahistory.com/displayimage.php?imgId=1-2-12D1).

Similar to Boston, a small town with a disproportionate success rate in the arena of American professional sports, Pittsburgh has a heart which is rivaled only by its spirit of innovation. Two Andrews, both industrial magnates, Carnegie and Mellon
(www.cmu.edu/50/founder-stories/story-carnegie-and-mellon.html), founded a university that today drives as much innovation as any on Earth.

Companies, including Google, Intel, and Microsoft, have been partnering with Carnegie-Mellon and other local universities and helping to transform this old steel town into a technology hub of the next age. But Carnegie-Mellon is so synonymous with Pittsburgh that Google has decided to keep an office inside Carnegie-Mellon’s Collaborative Innovation Center. Wired magazine in 2018 identified Pittsburgh as one of the top 10 places to “get your geek on.” Pittsburgh has smaller aggregate investments than other more media-dominated cities, but when it comes to the forefront of the new frontiers of technology, Pittsburgh is second to none. It is Pittsburgh that is leading the way on driverless vehicles (www.govtech.com/fs/5-Reasons-Pittsburgh-is-Still-Tops-in-Autonomous-Vehicles.html).

Research Triangle Park (RPT), N.C.

One of the most significant research parks in the world, Tobacco Road is most often thought of as the area of the greatest college basketball rivalry. RPT was established in the 1950s and is made up of three hub cities, Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill. The cities happen to house three research universities—Duke, North Carolina State, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; all happen to have historic basketball programs. With these three major academic institutions come diversity and uncommon concentrations of talent which technology companies crave. This talent fuels their growth and regenerates their creative spirit. Like its sister cities, Pittsburgh and Huntsville, access to venture capital is challenging as compared to the more prominent areas such as Silicon Valley and Boston.

Seattle, Washington

Simply being home to Microsoft or Amazon is reason enough to include Seattle as a Silicon Valley sister city. However, when Boeing is included in this cacophony of behemoths, it is easy to understand why Seattle is the northern manifestation of the phenomena of American technology expansion known as Silicon Valley. To put things in perspective, when Amazon HQ 2 moves into the new chosen city, it expects to spend more than $5 billion on infrastructure to support the 50,000 jobs it will generate for Amazon alone. In many ways, Seattle and Silicon Valley are incontrovertibly attached at the proverbial hip. While the area south of San Francisco is the center of creation for the many startups of “the cloud,” many of these startups run their infrastructure on Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. Although companies such as VMware are quickly developing compelling cloud solutions such as the VMware Cloud, the majority of public cloud resources emanate from the two technology giants headquartered in Seattle. When a Seattle company needs to raise money, it takes a short flight to Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley and the Six Sister Cities

Numerous studies have proven that innovation requires a considerable “dose of diversity.” It is the mix of backgrounds, education, and industries that enables teams to look at the world differently. Local colleges and universities provide the breeding ground for the talent that is a required fuel to keep innovation strong. As dominant as the area we know as “Silicon Valley” has become, it alone is unable to supply the growing demand for talent required, so naturally that drive toward innovation finds other locations in which to manifest.

Of course, there are many who could successfully argue that there are more than six sister cities of Silicon Valley and that in fact there is an entire extended family with members in all 50 states, across North America, and into Europe and the Asia Pacific Region, South America, and developing in Africa. And, of course, they would be right!

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