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Silicon name game spreads across the U.S. map

Silicon Alley
New York's 'Silicon Alley' is centered on the Flatiron Building  

May 30, 2000
Web posted at: 2:48 p.m. EDT (1848 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- William Shakespeare wrote that a "rose by any other name would smell as sweet," but many communities believe the sweet smell of success is tied to high-tech-sounding names like "Automation Alley," "The Digital Coast" and "e-country."

That's why Fairfax County, Virginia, -- home to lots of Internet and dot-com companies -- is running a $1.4 million ad campaign touting itself as the "technology hub of the East Coast" with "an enviable quality of life for technology entrepreneurs and workers."

"Unfortunately, what we are known best for is just being a government town," said Gerald Gordon of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority just outside of Washington.

"Being a government town has been a pretty good thing," he added. "It's given us the Internet and it's given us all sorts of technology through the government, but we're more than just a government town."

Silicon Valley would-bes

Fairfax is only the latest town to insist on a catchier sign on the information superhighway.

The most familiar of all high-tech monikers, California's Silicon Valley, has been around for nearly 30 years. It is practically a brand name, but the map is littered with others that deliberately echo it.

Among the Silicon Valley-would-bes:

  • Alexandria, Louisiana's Silicon Bayou.
  • North Albuquerque, New Mexico's Silicon Mesa.
  • Oak Ridge, Tennessee's Silicon Hollow.
  • Phoenix, Arizona's Silicon Desert.

Silicon Prairie is a name so coveted that 10 cities claim it: Lincoln, Nebraska; Kansas City, Missouri; Perkins, Oklahoma; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota; Chicago, Illinois; Richardson, Texas, Urbana/Champaign, Illinois; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Iowa City, Iowa; Austin, Texas.

Fairfax County, Virginia, is running an ad campaign promoting itself as 'e-country'; this ad shows a tattoo of a computer on a woman's leg  

The claim to Silicon Prairie has almost landed in court. The Silicon Prairie Technology Association of Kansas City once threatened to sue the Silicon Prairie Interactive Network of Oklahoma.

Internet consultant Keith Dawson has a whole Web site devoted to tracking these monikers, 70 of them so far.

"In the last couple of years, it's gotten to be serious business," said Dawson. "They're trying to brand a region, or a vicinity of a city, or a city itself, perhaps a whole state."

New York City promotes "Silicon Alley" which is centered on the Flatiron Building.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Tom Riordan has promoted the "Digital Coast," running all the way down to San Diego.

"Automation Alley" is just outside Detroit and has a nice Web site.

Portland, Maine is promoting itself as "Webport"

Boston has a "Cyber District" and Massachusetts wants to be known as the "dot-commonwealth."

But because none of these are nearly as well known as the original Silicon Valley, the 'moniker gap' persists and silicon envy is becoming a permanent feature of the new economy.

New anxieties can accompany Silicon Valley's new money
February 26, 2000
Super hot high-tech employment breaks local records
February 7, 2000
San Jose heads list of top 10 tech cities
July 19, 1999

Fairfax County Economic Development Authority
Silicon Valley, CA
Tasty Bits from the Technology Front

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