Time for a quick quiz: where's the best
spot in the world to plant a high-flying, high technology
company? One that's making a big noise in the computer industry,
on Wall Street, and in world markets?
That would be the fabled Silicon Valley in northern California,
right? Not any more - if you're a local reader, you are sitting
in the state that could be the best possible answer to that
question. It's the State of Hawaii, due to a very fortunate
confluence of factors, that has the opportunity to be the
next super-corridor of the high tech world.
The global economy is fundamentally shifting, from manufacturing-
to information-based, because of the Internet. This means
we are interconnected as never before. More and more, all
the people around the world that log on to the Internet are
doing so to buy something.
You have companies that connect all their employees with
all of the corporate data. There's enormous use by banks and
other financial services that move their ATM and inter-company
transactions over the Net. The Internet today has already
become a backbone of the world economy.
Technology industries, and specifically Internet companies,
run the whole show in the back room by plugging all the pieces
together and charging what amounts to billions of dollars
for the services. This presents Hawaii with an opportunity
that carries many gifts.
The industry's workers are educated, prosperous professionals,
who by the nature of their education and skills are welcome,
responsible and respectful additions. It's an industry that
needs little from Hawaii's natural resources, while it adds
significantly to the state tax-base and other avenues of economic
Silicon Valley's Limitations
Santa Clara County, California, better known as Silicon Valley,
has costs of living and real estate that are the highest in
the country. Its cost of living index is 2.27 times higher
than the U.S. average and the price of a typical three bedroom
home falls in a range over $604, 000.
That, in turn, affects by one of the industry's biggest problems
- the scarcity of the skilled professionals required by this
field. There's a tremendous demand and very short supply of
these workers, the vital cogs in this highly profitable machine.
Companies are scrambling to entice the high tech educated
Finally and very importantly, Northern California's vaunted
Internet bandwidth (MAE West specifically,) is beginning to
be overtaxed. Silicon Valley is bursting at the seams, and
its information industry needs to expand into a new environment
that can support its full growth potential.
The companies that are driving this phenomenal information
economy are actively seeking new locations. One thing the
Internet changes is the eternal value of "location, location,
location" - it doesn't matter where a high tech company is
any more. Customers on the Internet don't know, and don't
care, if it's located in Palo Alto, NYC, or Maui. What's important
are how people know about a website and, crucially, that it's
always online and quick to load.
Hawaii's Unique Advantages
Internet companies are a new breed, "fast" companies that
serve their customers from anywhere and everywhere at any
time. Location is irrelevant to them, as demonstrated by Amazon
in Seattle, Dell in Austin, and Lycos in Boston.
Fast companies look to three major issues in regard to location,
relocation or expansion.
1. Network infrastructure
2. Work and life environment
3. Real cost of doing business
Hawaii has such extraordinary advantages in each of these
categories that it's a treasury of riches waiting to be tapped.
Wisely managed these riches will multiply into further economic
opportunities. This state has an immense resource in its fiber-optic
cable network; is a geographic gold mine by virtue of its
location between the mainland and the Pacific Rim, and it
has a natural environment that is second to none.
Its major appeals drawing Silicon Valley companies are:
- Property costs are in many cases as much as one-third
less in Hawaii than in Silicon Valley.
- The cost of living index is around one-third higher in
Palo Alto, California, than in Honolulu.
- Hawaii's four undersea fiber optic cables directly extend
to and connect North America, the four major Asian markets,
Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, Malaysia and more.
Not only is it underutilized at this point, it's available
- Its centralized geography between the Far East and the
mainland makes Hawaii an attractive locale when face-to-face
meetings must occur - and the quality of life it offers
isn't too shabby, either, for those that choose to stay.
As a series of islands, the state is not only physically
disconnected from the rest of the country but even from itself.
This unique geography allows Hawaii to be an example to the
other states by demonstrating innovative solutions to universal
challenges. The Internet is waiting to prove itself the perfect
glue to pull the disconnected pieces together.
The time is now for the state to create a totally comprehensive,
sophisticated method to gather information about the wonderful
opportunities it offers. Hawaii, if it understands what advantages
it has and how it can leverage them, can redefine itself from
Paradise Island to the "High Tech Paradise."
article ghost-written by Bill Ross for the President of Redline
Media, who was promoting this cause back when Silicon Valley
was too busy. It was published, in print only, in a Hawaiian
newspaper in October, 1998.