Twenty miles from the heart of San Jose you will find two things that contrast sharply with its image as the Capital of the Silicon Valley.
Go to the northwest and you’ll encounter giants that make Larry Ellison, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg and the other high tech titans look minuscule in comparison. The towering redwoods in the Big Basin Redwoods Park soar 300 feet skyward with circumferences pushing 50 feet. The redwoods, in some cases, have been living since the glory days of the Roman Empire.
Venture to the south and you’ll run into the remnants of farming that once made Santa Clara one of the state’s most productive agricultural counties. Today top crops range from mushrooms and bell peppers to cherries and nursery plants. The county still yields $260 million a year in farm products. That’s nothing to sneeze at considering Santa Clara County by itself manages to still eclipse the production of entire states such as New Hampshire that raises crops valued at $190 million.
For those reasons alone, you could argue San Jose is the quintessential California city.
Before those in San Francisco who believe they own the words “The City” turn their nose up or any Los Angeles booster even thinks about saying, “dude, you’re nuts,” consider this: The 6.8 million people of the Silicon Valley pay $14.5 billion in state personal income tax each year. Those figures are gleaned from a study released in January by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office that show Silicon Valley’s 6.8 million residents representing 14 percent of the state’s 38 million residents paid 33 percent of all state income tax.
It isn’t the movie industry, aerospace, high finance, tourism or Mickey Mouse that is powering California. It’s those who have been busy making another mouse obsolete by rolling out social media sites, video games, and apps.
They have taken the Henry Ford concept of marketing affordable products to the masses to generate massive profits and applied it to the Internet. But instead of a few automakers building fortunes by selling vehicles at thousands of dollars apiece the Silicon Valley is churning out millionaires daily based on selling digital footprint products for pennies or for nothing at all.
And just like Henry Ford created a new middle class comprised of workers fashioning auto parts and assembling cars, the Silicon Valley titans are doing the same with code writers.
It is why young visitors from out-of-state are more likely to be “wowed” by driving past the headquarters of Google, Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook, and Netflix than they are cruising the Ventura Highway or traveling across the Golden Gate.
Los Angeles and Hollywood at one time had the world at their proverbial feet waiting for the newest star to be born. Now the entertainment of hundreds of millions of young people worldwide is more often than not created in the Silicon Valley. And unlike Hollywood with its history of “A-list” and “B-grade actors anyone can be a star in the world that the Silicon Valley has created byte by byte.
San Jose and the rest of the Silicon Valley doesn’t have exclusive control of high tech. But when it comes to cutting edge and the stuff that thrills, the Silicon Valley is where its at whether it is rolling out products such as WhatsApp, Tesla electric sports cars, Google Glass or driverless cars.
Just like the Gold Rush energized a nation, rich farmland drew hundreds of thousands on the promise of a better tomorrow, and California Dreaming in the 1960s caught the fancy of a generation, the Silicon Valley is where it is at today.
Sure there are some innovative things elsewhere. And places like Texas have a lot of high tech jobs but they tend to be more run-of-the-mill in nature.
No place can match the Bohemian attitude that California inspires.
No offense intended but this isn’t Iowa or Nebraska. The lay of the land in such states is predictable with residents justifiably proud in embracing their farming industry. Even so, California’s repertoire of agricultural endeavors blows them away – and much of the world. Annual crops in the Golden State exceed $44.7 billion making it the largest farm state by far accounting for 11.3 percent of all of this country’s food production.
The California city that truly captures the world’s fancy today isn’t Los Angeles or San Francisco. It’s San Jose.
Seventy years ago it was no bigger in size and population than Manteca. Today it is a world class city not as defined by dining guides, art critics,and snobs but as by the World Wide Web.
One may leave their soul in the City of the Angels long criticized for not having one. You may even leave your heart in San Francisco. But your brain has never been sharper thanks to San Jose and Cutting Edge California that’s better known as the Silicon Valley.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.