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Site of Reagan Speech: The Next Silicon Valley?

May 30, 1985

MALVERN, Pa. (AP) _ Promoters of a sprawling corporate community that blends high-technology and service industries in a setting of rolling farmland hope President Reagan’s visit here Friday will put the area on the map as the next Silicon Valley.

Reagan is scheduled to drop in for a speech to executives and employees, explaining his tax simplification plan, and lunch with a group of businessmen at the Great Valley Corporate Center.

More than 200 companies, including Armstrong World Industries and General Electric Co., and 11,000 employees occupy 32 modern buildings and 2 million square feet of space at the center, west of Philadelphia.

Jill Felix, who manages the 210-acre center for its operators, Rouse & Associates, said it is well placed to attract the sort of advanced technology industries that brought computer wizards and prosperity to a once- rural area of northern California.

″It’s like the Silicon Valley of the East - a new, emerging Silicon Valley,″ she said.

″We now have all the ingredients to attract high tech,″ she said, noting that there are 34 colleges and universities nearby and that the state is committed to the support of advanced technology industries through the Benjamin Franklin Partnership.

The partnership is a consortium of business, labor, scientific and academic talent designed to spur job creation through four ″incubator″ technology centers, including one in Philadelphia that is associated with Great Valley.

The program has received $39 million in state funding, which in turn has generated $116 million in private investment since 1982, said Michael Moyle, a spokesman for Gov. Richard Thornburgh.

Ms. Felix said she hopes Reagan’s visit will draw attention to the advantages offered by Great Valley and other nearby business sites.

″It has to help this whole corridor. If he believes it’s the place to be, one would like to believe it has a positive impact,″ she said.

Robert E. Mittelstaedt, director of the Wharton Innovation Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said the development is ″reflective of something that’s going on around the country.″

He said advanced technological growth has brought ″a wave of recovery to places on the East Coast that have had problems in basic industries.″

However, Colin J. Loxley, a forecaster for Chase Econometrics Inc. of nearby Bala Cynwyd, says the concentrations of high-tech industries in California’s Silican Valley, and along Route 128 near Boston, may never be matched because of the intense competition by communities to attract such companies.

He said Great Valley is ″getting there, but has a little further to go. It’s still relatively small.″

Thornburgh spokesman Dave Runkel said the Republican governor had recommended several sites along the corridor as suitable for Reagan’s visit.

″The president wanted to come to Pennsylvania for a couple of reasons. First, Pennsylvania has one of the most simple tax systems in the country, with forms that are easily understood. The president is proposing something similar on the federal level,″ he said.

″The president is also interested in advanced technology. And certainly the whole Route 202 Corridor is appropriate for that.″

The Great Valley center has a business development and training center funed through the Franklin partnership that is set up in an 18th century farmhouse to keep engineers up to date in the latest technological advances.

Tenants at the center range from biotechnology companies to a maker of brake linings for locomotives to banks and publishing companies. Other major tenants besides Armstrong and General Electric include Atlantic Richfield Petroleum Products, Bell of Pennsylvania, Philip Morris U.S.A., Fidelity Bank and Chrysler Corp.

Ms. Felix points out that amenities for employees include daycare centers for children and the elderly; continuing education programs; recreation areas and fitness trails; and a general philosophy that ″the quality-of-life situation is ultimately what attracts high-tech industries.″

The center has a bank, travel agency, stock brokerage and temporary help agency along with the modern buildings. Trees, shrubbery, flowers, sculptures and man-made ponds are dotted about the center.

″It’s the attitude we have that this place is special because of the people who work here,″ said Ms. Felix. ″We try to provide quality environments that are not only aesthetically pleasing but productive.″

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