Schumer Tries to Stoke East-West Rivalry

Calls for New York to surpass Silicon Valley, but leaves out the 'how'

     In his keynote speech kicking off Internet Week in New York City this morning, Sen. Charles Schumer stoked the growing East Coast-West Coast tech rivalry by laying out a lofty and—judging by the lack of specifics—largely rhetorical goal of seeing to it that New York surpasses Silicon Valley as "tech center of America" by the year 2035.

     "There's a reason Google invested $2 billion to buy a New York headquarters in Chelsea last year," Schumer said. "We want to ensure that New York will become the high-tech center over the next hundred years. . . . If we do what we need to do, if we continue to nurture the strengths of the city . . . New York should surpass Silicon Valley as our nation's first major tech center."

     Schumer's speech, though heavy on New York parochialism, was light on concrete plans for achieving the goal of bringing the state to technological preeminence. Schumer called for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo to form a "working group" that brings together tech entrepreneurs, financiers, real estate, media moguls, and academics "to make that happen."

     Schumer followed this up by proclaiming that "we need to support our school system, we need to have affordable housing. . . . We also have to continue to support the things that make New York unique [like] the unparalleled cultural life. . . . We have to make sure that young people are aware of the opportunities there are in New York."

     Schumer did point to a few concrete policies that could hasten New York's ascent,  among them encouraging venture capital investment in biotech (the senator pointed out that New York trails Boston and California in biotech investment), bringing a large applied sciences school to the New York area (as Bloomberg has proposed), awarding green cards to advanced-degree graduates in the U.S., and fostering government investment in tech research and development.

     "If not for government investment, there wouldn't have been an Internet or Silicon Valley, " he said. "For all the things we've done well, we've never capitalized on research. Boston and Silicon Valley have done a better job of fostering a culture [of entrepreneurship]."

     In a Q&A session afterward, Schumer, who sits on the Senate's finance and banking committees, said he didn't believe another tech bubble was in the offing.