What started as a joke by a local guy at a restaurant is now a sweeping agreement that will probably see a U.S. silicon industry come into being in the next few years.
Last week, Sam Chang, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who owns and runs a small semiconductor-related business in Cupertino, Calif., challenged a small group of prominent technologists in a meeting to come up with ideas for building a new U.S. silicon industry.
The group he challenged included Bill Gates, who is chairman of both Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Larry Ellison, who recently formed the new business group, Connectivity; Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford Motor Co.; Jeff Skoll, the CEO of Participant Media; and Suzan Johnson Cook, a CTO at Intel.
Mr. Chang said his idea was an exercise in partnership, suggesting that “Intel could lead an effort to build technology products using Silicon Valley silicon.”
In a speech at the conference, he said Mr. Ellison said, “I’ll give you the money and all you have to do is follow me.”
He was kidding, of course, but the wagering apparently got him something to believe in, and Intel recently announced a partnership agreement that aims to create hundreds of new U.S. jobs, possibly a million in a decade.
“I am proud that Intel is leading the effort to build this new U.S. silicon industry,” Mr. Ellison said.
In a statement, Mr. Ellison said Intel is investing in job creation by hiring 400 workers in Silicon Valley, and this is the first phase of Intel’s $2.4 billion investment in the silicon industry over a decade. He said the company’s silicon manufacturing plants will be located near Silicon Valley and the U.S. will be able to compete for more jobs.
Mr. Chang says the U.S. silicon industry should not be judged on corporate salaries but on jobs.
“All I want is for Intel to put money into the business with no thought about salaries or even paying taxes in California,” he said. “Instead of putting money into executives’ bank accounts, there should be more money going to hiring people and to research and development.”
He added, “I believe that we have to add Silicon Valley silicon to our domestic business mix so that the landscape no longer looks like a forest full of trees, but a forest full of people.”
Initially, Mr. Chang expects that the silicon industry he hopes to create will have U.S. workers at all levels–managers, engineers, employees–and that it will require some U.S. innovation, such as advanced manufacturing, to succeed.