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Remarks at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Annual Business Summit, San Jose, California

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank
Remarks at  the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Annual Business Summit, San Jose, California

Thank you, Carl.  Thanks to our host, Cadence Design Systems.  And thanks to everyone in Silicon Valley Leadership Group. I look forward to the discussion with our moderator and panelists.

In his State of the Union address, the president said we need to “reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class.”

Silicon Valley is helping do just that.  According to your most recent survey, fully half of your companies added new jobs last year.  You’re contributing to the more than 6 million private sector jobs that have been added over the past 3 years.

Innovation, of course, is what drives this ecosystem in Silicon Valley – but in fact, innovation has driven our entire economy for decades.  Some studies suggest that innovation – in both products and processes – accounts for two-thirds of U.S. economic growth since World War II.  Innovation increases productivity, boosts incomes, and strengthens our middle class.  

The Administration is working to make sure that you can keep turning innovation into good jobs.

First, I’m pleased to say that we have secured temporary space to open our new patent office here in Silicon Valley.  By May, this office will house our first group of administrative judges.  Late next year, we hope to move into a permanent space with room for patent examiners and others.

As you may have heard, we already hired someone with Silicon-Valley experience to lead this office – Michelle Lee.  She was most recently the head of patents and patent strategy at Google.  Michelle, We’re delighted to have you on board.

The Patent and Trademark Office is committed to working on patent-related issues that matter to this community.  

We’re going to use the new office and other patent system reforms to put more and better tools in your hands – while also working with universities, incubators, and others to help make Silicon Valley an even more powerful engine for our economy.

Moving beyond patents, our ability to innovate and compete as a nation heavily depends on growing and attracting a skilled workforce – highlighted as the #1 business challenge in your survey (65%).  That’s a key reason we need commonsense immigration reform.  And I’m aware that, last week, many of you added your voices to the call for reform by launching an online March for Innovation.

The President’s plan for immigration reform is designed to strengthen border security, help employers hire only legal workers, and bring millions of undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and into our economy.

Of course, his plan also recognizes that we are in a global competition for talent. We need people who are known for creating good jobs… to create those jobs here in the U.S.

That’s why we need to staple green cards to advanced STEM degrees.  Many foreign graduate students come here, get educated at places like Stanford and Berkeley, and want to put that training to work in your businesses.  We can’t afford to lose them to one of our competitors abroad.

We should also create a start-up visa program.  If a foreign entrepreneur is attracting financing from U.S. investors or revenue from U.S. customers, we should find a path for them to build their business here and hire Americans to work in it.  After all, over 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants.  

Overall, the President’s entire plan for commonsense immigration reform could boost our GDP up to 1.3% and create up to 900,000 jobs.

Let’s make sure that the brightest minds in the world can continue to come to Silicon Valley and help drive U.S. competitiveness in the 21st century.

Finally, let me say a few words about the sequester that went into effect last Friday.  

Let me be blunt:  This is a terrible policy action.  These cuts are drastic, arbitrary and deep.  They’ll hurt businesses and the economy.  They were designed to be so onerous that their threat would force Congress to take intelligent actions to reduce the deficit.  As they are designed, they are unacceptable.  

They’re unacceptable to manufacturers, exporters, and other businesses that rely on services and data from places like the Commerce Department – including many in this room.

They’re unacceptable to Californians who could see cuts such as:

  • $87 million less for schools
  • Millions of dollars in cuts to clean air, clean water, and public health efforts
  • And less research funding from places like NSF and NIH.

Most immediately, the sequester is unacceptable to those hardworking Americans who will lose their jobs because of it.  Altogether, hundreds of thousands of Americans could be added to the unemployment rolls.

This is a self-inflicted wound to our continued economic expansion.  

We can reduce our deficit… but we need to do this while still making key investments in areas like education, infrastructure rebuilding, and basic R&D.

Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion dollars. The president has laid out a plan to Congress to further reduce our deficit through sensible spending cuts and tax reforms such as closing some wasteful loopholes.  He stands ready to work with Congress on this.

And I want to echo what he said last week in Virginia.  We’ve got to stop having these manufactured crises.  He said, “If it’s not a good way to run a business, it’s sure not a good way to run a country.”  I’m sure that the business leaders here agree.

As we move to discussion, I’m happy to talk more about patents, immigration, the sequester… or other areas where the Commerce Department is providing leadership, such as manufacturing or cybersecurity policy.

We need to make sure that we have an economy that supports American entrepreneurship, innovation, and competitiveness.  We need an environment where places like Silicon Valley can continue to grow and lead.
Some of this is the responsibility of the government – we need good schools, and sensible immigration, tax, and IP policies.  

But You – our entrepreneurs and business leaders – have to provide the ideas that create jobs and build the economy.

If we both do our jobs, our nation will be stronger, our economy will grow faster, and the future will be brighter for the next generation of Americans.  Thank you.