In "The Valley: Still a There There" [op-ed, Oct. 6], Fred Hiatt writes, "Geography still matters, but the culture of knowledge-based entrepreneurship is spreading -- to Austin, Boston, Northern Virginia, Israel."

Silicon Valley may well have been the first notable center for knowledge-based entrepreneurship, with "its own language, culture, personal networks and iconic eateries," as Mr. Hiatt suggests. But "spreading" conjures up an image of kudzu migrating north from Georgia to Virginia.

More accurately, Northern Virginia has grown into an information technology center because of home-grown characteristics, not because of something imported from California. We too self-consciously cultivate our unique jargon and culture, our historical ties with the federal government, our own networks of enterprising pioneers such as Earl Williams, Mark Warner and Steve Case, and our own symbolic eateries -- the Tower Club, for instance.

Research shows that niche information technology centers spontaneously spring up when a region possesses a quality labor force, research and development facilities and a high enough threshold of economic activity to productively employ those specialized resources.

Okay, maybe I am a bit defensive when I hear "Silicon Valley this" and "Silicon Valley that." Maybe I am a bit too infatuated with our home team. But Northern Virginia has transformed itself in a few decades from a government services community into a world-class technology center mainly by using native resources -- and with little or no help from our friends in Silicon Valley.



The writer is a professor of public policy and director of the Mason Enterprise Center for Regional Analysis and Entrepreneurship at George Mason University.