I am returning from a trip to the Carolinas and I am worried. I saw first hand the value of focus, strategy and investment by the state of North Carolina. I had the privilege to speak with an expert in the field of server facility installation (servers are the storage spaces for computer software and data). While I was familiar with the Raleigh-Durham Research Triangle’s focus and collaborative efforts surrounding life sciences, I was unfamiliar with the focus on technology infrastructure.
What began to sound the alarm in my head is that many states have been investing heavily in their version of “The Next Big Idea” for years. Case and point is that everyone in North Carolina seems familiar with the battle cry for focus, strategy and investment. And while they are all singing the same tune, they are reaping the benefits of a strong economy, intellectual development, broad tax base, improved environment, and healthy community.
Here is a great example. In September of 2010, Science In The Triangle reported that $116 Million will be spent to expand an already robust fiberoptic superhighway in North Carolina by an additional 2,500 miles (see map to right). The goal is to enable research that is “hobbled by limited bandwidth capacity”. The result of North Carolina’s investment? One of many examples is that Apple Computer decided to build a 500,000 s.f. that is expected to be part of it’s $1Billion investment. The Department of Commerce expects the result to be the creation of 3.000 jobs. This is one of many such investments in server facilities. This is on top of the decades old success in life sciences.
I am less concerned that we need to join the “me too” idea of replicating the fiber optic strategy of North Carolina. This blog is less about seeing North Carolina as our competitor, but rather as our inspiration. We seem to be our own worst enemy when it comes to long tern strategy, allowing political bickering and either labor or industry alliances to stifle vision.I am more concerned that as a community (not just a Governor, not just a legislature, not just a non-profit, but a community), we are missing the focus. If we are going to regain the innovation in Delaware that creates an economic revolution, the way the Financial Center Development Act did in 1981, we have better get cooking. Delaware needs to think big, invest big, and to create a rallying cry that we all understand and become passionate about.
The fantastic news about Bloom Energy is not the end of a journey, it is the beginning. Had we not had the Chrysler site and the intellectual muscle of one of the best engineering Universities in the world, we would not have been a candidate. This example helps make the point for investment in infrastructure so that we will benefit for decades. Now that Bloom Energy has landed, let’s consider taking this to the next level.
If our “infrastructure” is the University of Delaware and the Chrysler site, would we create some sort of tax free zone to enhance it’s marketability? Just 30 minutes up the road, competing Pennsylvania does exactly that with their now famous Keystone Opportunity Zones and Keystone Innovation Zones. If industries that supply green energy technologies are our target employers, do we hear a rallying cry for the integration of these sciences into the school curriculum like we did when we sent men to the moon? If Bloom, or the next five employers at the UD site play on the world stage, are we ready to declare Delaware a global center for competition and begin writing favorable legislation to attract international business, much like Singapore?
Let’s go Delaware. Let’s push ourselves to the tipping point. Let’s let out a rallying cry that we plan to lead.
Let’s put Delaware on the world stage and get ourselves back to work.