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Upstate New York embracing Tech Valley identity

ALBANY -- It's taken 15 years for the Capital Region to embrace the Tech Valley with its promise of hope and development.

But few at the time could see much substance in it.

Now the area has come to embrace and identify with the moniker, no longer dismissing it as hyperbole. Tech Valley has also earned credibility outside New York State -- even if mostly among the high-tech elite.

Some people may still feel that the name is forced or contrived, but the term Silicon Valley didn't become universally associated with Santa Clara Valley, where companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Advanced Micro Devices got their starts, until the 1980s.

That was a decade after the term was first used by Electronic News writer Don Hoeffler in a series of articles he wrote in 1971 titled "Silicon Valley USA." It was the same year that Intel developed the world's first microprocessor.

Wally Altes, former president of the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, is commonly credited with coining "Tech Valley." He was talking with colleagues one day in late 1997 about developing a name that would reflect the region's growing computer and high-tech sector.

The name Techneurial Valley -- a combination of the words "technology" and "entrepreneurial" -- was proposed.

"But that's not a phrase that really rolls off the tongue, so we shortened it," Altes said. The chamber officially launched the Tech Valley brand in early 1998.

At that time, the region's reputation as a center for computer chip research was just getting started. And it was long before the Capital Region could compare itself to places like San Jose, Calif., or Austin, Texas -- major computer chip manufacturing and design hubs -- without eliciting blank stares or laughs.

But during the late 1990s, chamber officials began noticing a trend that suggested employment was shifting from government to the private sector, to knowledge-based jobs growing out of universities and research labs.

Altes said the original intent of the Tech Valley name was to focus on a wide range of tech industries that had taken hold -- from software development to video games, biotech drug development and alternative energy.

Two dates mark when the Tech Valley name began to gain credibility. The first is June 23, 2006, when Gov. George Pataki announced that Advanced Micro Devices Inc. would build a billion-dollar computer chip factory in Saratoga County.

The second is July 23, 2009, when GlobalFoundries broke ground on a facility known as Fab 8, processing its first batches of silicon wafers around the start of this year.

"Our region is now directly competing against Silicon Valley; Austin, Texas; and Germany," said Peter Gannon, president of Arsenal Business & Technology Partnership, a nonprofit group that markets private-sector space at the arsenal, where the U.S. Army makes cannons.

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