Friday, February 13, 2009

The stimulus: What's in it for Silicon Valley's tech economy?

From the San Jose Mercury-News:

The sweeping $789 billion stimulus bill headed for a vote in Congress is expected to create thousands of clean-tech jobs in Silicon Valley, gin up new business for many of the region's tech companies and put hundreds of dollars in the pockets of most residents.

While the bill won't end the pains of the recession any time soon, it will give a boost to valley companies in an era of mass layoffs, plunging wages and deep anxiety, experts say.

"It's a little nudge to get everyone back on track," said Jessica Zufolo, an analyst with Medley Global Advisors.

Parts of the bill of special interest to the valley include $30 billion for a smarter electricity grid, improved batteries and energy efficiency; $20 billion in tax incentives for renewable energy and energy-efficient projects; and $19 billion to create electronic health-care record systems.

It also provides tax credits of up to $400 per worker and $800 a family here and across the nation, phasing out for individual taxpayers earning $100,000 a year and couples earning $200,000.

Another feature of the package allows consumers to deduct sales and excise taxes paid when buying new cars and trucks. Stephen Smith, president of the Silicon Valley Auto Dealers Association, said the incentives could spur on "many new-car buyers who have been on hold for some time."

Clean-tech jobs

Valley clean-technology companies said Thursday that they anticipate adding thousands of employees in the next few years as a result of the stimulus bill.

"We'll be hiring hundreds of people over the next 12 to 18 months," said Kevin Surace, president and chief executive of Serious Materials, a Sunnyvale company that makes green building materials. His company's ultra-insulated windows fit perfectly with the stimulus bill's goal of spending $5 billion to weatherize up to 1 million homes a year, he said. Serious Materials is adding factory space to meet the anticipated demand.

The stimulus plan will "catapult the U.S. to be the world's largest solar market by the end of 2010," predicted Suvi Sharma, CEO of Solaria, a solar-cell maker in Fremont.

Solaria and SunPower, the San Jose solar-module maker, said the stimulus package could speed up their plans for U.S. production.

"For some time, we've considered expanding our manufacturing footprint in the U.S. beyond our modest facility in Richmond," said Julie Blunden, a SunPower vice president. "This could certainly accelerate our thinking about where and when we could deploy."

Nationwide, the Solar Energy Industries Association forecasts that the stimulus package will create 67,000 solar jobs in 2009, and 119,000 in total through 2010.

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, meanwhile, estimates hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created across the country as a result of the new government funding in network infrastructures. Though valley tech companies would not say whether the stimulus spending would actually result in significant new IT jobs any time soon, experts say it could prevent some layoffs.

Networking companies Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks are sure to get a chunk of business from the billions of dollars being funneled into high-speed Internet and smart-grid projects. Likewise, Intel will be able to provide processing technology to various new infrastructure work, including high-speed rail projects, which will receive $8 billion in federal funding....MORE