Mayor of San Jose makes case for clean tech innovation

We’re encouraging DoE to move ahead quickly. We met with them last year. At that point they had only one high level appointee, who was Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Today the department is in a much better position than it was

Why is San Jose so interested in clean tech?

It’s a huge opportunity to catch the clean tech wave. That’s the next wave of innovation that’s growing in the valley. We’re trying to keep those companies here and keep the jobs here. They’re going to create a lot of jobs, but the question is, will they do it in San Jose? Will they do it in California or even in the U.S.?

We have the comapnies, we have the technology. Its’ just a question of how we keep them here.

One company, SoloPower, got a loan guarantee to build a new factory.

Another company, Nanosolar, is in the process. They produce the world’s most cost-effective solar cell.

They need to expand, they need a new factory, and we’d like for them to do in San Jose. They have opportunities to go to other countries.

Do you think your visit was productive?

Yes. Jonathan Silver (who runs the DoE’s loan office), he understands the importance of this. He understands the way things work.

I think the loan guarantees will be going out much more quickly. It was a ramp-up period, with the additional funding they got out of the stimulus package.

What other policy areas are you interested in?

Well, there’s the Department of Transportation. We’re always working on transportation projects.

We have a high-speed rail, and an extension of the BART system to San Jose. We are also working on an automated transit system for our airport.

At the Department of Education, we have an effort here to close the achievement gap by 2010.

We’re looking for funding opportunities as well.

What is the unemployment situation like in San Jose?

It’s better than it was, but it’s still higher than national average. We continue to lose jobs but at a much higher rate.

Our clean tech companies continue to grow. They’ve made profits. But our tech industry has been overwhelmed by the national recession.

How long has the clean tech wave been growing in San Jose?

This started several years ago. Some companies date back as far as a decade.

For example, there’s Bloom Energy, which just came out of stealth mode a couple weeks ago. They’ve been in the works for eight years.

SunPower, they spun off from Cypress Semiconductor 5 years ago.

The real energy tax credits are helping alternative energy factories. All these are coming together.

What about the traditional technology sector that originally made San Jose the center of Silicon Valley?

We’ve sustained pretty serious job losses. But the big companies are still doing well.

Applied Materials, which manufactures material for silicon chips, got into solar cells and brought in a couple billion in sales.

Cisco continues to be profitable. It’s largest employer in San Jose. They’re acquiring companies and hiring. They plan on hiring 2,000 people this year.

Brocade, the newtorking company, is building a new campus in San Jose. They’re growing at 30 percent a year.

The companies that are into networking are doing very well.

Google’s not a San Jose company, but companies like Ebay and PayPal, which are San Jose companies, have all done well.

There’s been so many losses in so many other sectors. The biggest losses were in construction and real estate

When do you plan to come back to D.C.?

I’ll be back three or four times this year. My next trip is in May. You never know when I’ll get a call.

The issue of the possible change to the deferral of taxes on foreign earnings is by far the number one issue right now. There are so many companies that make their money selling stuff overseas.

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