Mr. Muro said the United States had seen the incredible strength of concentrating technology investments in a few key places like Silicon Valley, where companies in related businesses can benefit by clustering together. But those investment patterns have also resulted in tremendous imbalances in the country’s economy, where “only a few places are truly prospering and much talent and much innovation is left on the table,” he said.
“This is a whole different map,” Mr. Muro said, adding, “I think we need to make some experiments and some of them will probably be great investments.”
The announcements tried to balance several competing goals of the tech hubs, including whether to invest in as many regions as possible — or whether to concentrate spending in a few areas in hopes of engineering radical economic improvement in those areas. They also reflected the high interest in the program from regional officials and their representatives in Congress.
The administration is also trying to do as much as possible with initial funding for the program that remains well below the maximum levels lawmakers set in the CHIPS bill. While that bill authorized Congress to fund a variety of programs, lawmakers still need to greenlight actual money for many of the tech hub investments, as well as other programs.
Given those financial constraints, some supporters of the program said on Monday that they hoped administration officials would ultimately focus most of the money on a small set of the announced hubs. Ideally, “you’d be extremely narrow about who gets funding,” said John Lettieri, president and chief executive of the Economic Innovation Group, a Washington think tank. “The more narrow the better.”
The later round of funding announcements, he added, “is where we have to be pretty ruthless about shielding the process from politics as much as possible.”
Madeleine Ngo contributed reporting.