How to create the next 10 great American tech clusters

The great question of our time is how to ensure that America will continue to have the world’s strongest economy while reducing income inequality. Fifty years ago, New York City was the unquestioned business capital of the U.S. Today nine of the world’s ten largest companies are in tech, and power has shifted to a different coast. Six of the world’s largest market cap companies are in Silicon Valley and Seattle. Tech jobs are expected to grow from 12 million today to over 25 million by 2025. America is the giant of the technology age, but to make sure all Americans can succeed, we need to spread the next 10 tech centers throughout our country so no one gets left behind. What makes a great tech center that can innovate and grow the local economy? Four things: Great universities; Capital for R&D; Access to venture capital; And a talented pool of immigrants.

Nothing is more important to continue to be the global innovation and tech leader than great universities. Stanford and UC Berkeley have served as the launching pad for hundreds of the world’s most influential companies from Hewlett Packard and Intel in the 1960s to Netflix, Cisco, and Google today. Harvard and MIT have done the same things for New England. We need to fully fund our major research universities around the country to ignite the next ten American tech centers in our heartland.

Many of the greatest drivers in the American economy have come as a direct result of government-funded research. Government financed inventions include everything from the Internet and GPS to your microwave oven. The most important thing the next Congress can do is to pass the Endless Frontier Act. This bill would dedicate $100 billion in R&D funding to tech clusters in 10 major regions across the country. Focusing on R&D in high-growth industries is one of the best ways to stimulate the nation’s job growth.

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Crazy ideas, from online search engines and booksellers to electric vehicles, require investors who will take risks and think out of the box. Commercial bankers are not in the business of making bold bets. It is little surprise that Silicon Valley is home to dozens of the world’s best-known tech companies when you realize that they invest as much venture capital as Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and Austin — combined. The U.S. government and state pension funds can be that missing component in the non-Silicon Valleys of the country, taking the investment leaps for the next ten great regional tech hubs.

There are great debates about immigration in our country, but one thing is clear: Over 50 percent of the companies that go public on Nasdaq every year are founded by immigrants. The simple fact is our universities are magnets for the best and brightest people from around the world — and immigrants go on to found companies in disproportionately high numbers. We should be fast-tracking green cards for entrepreneurs, like the founder of Zoom, and those with advanced degrees in critical industries. To keep America on top we need incentives to attract immigrants who have expertise in critical sectors from every country.

Winning the global tech race should be a national imperative. We know how to do this on the coasts, but it is time to invest in the new frontier of research centers in our heartland. By investing in both targeted research and venture capital and opening the doors to immigrants, we have the potential to turn cities like St. Louis, Columbus, Nashville, Tampa, Pittsburg, Salt Lake City, Buffalo, and Milwaukee, into the tech centers of the future, all while reducing income inequality. America’s coastal technology centers have created the recipe for success, and it is time to share it with the rest of the country.

Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaLawmakers demand justice for Adam Toledo: 'His hands were up. He was unarmed' Biden can make history on nuclear arms reductions Overnight Defense: Biden makes his Afghanistan decision MORE (D-Calif.) represents California’s 17th District. He sits on the House Budget, Armed Services, and Oversight and Reform committees. Steve Westly is the former California State Controller, founder of the Westly Group, and former Tesla Board member.