n the four years since Bert Braddock started his electronics company, ZyMOS Inc., it has grown from four employes to 100 and is doing a multimillion-dollar business. It typifies the explosive growth that has made Sunnyvale firms world famous and the envy of other American communities.
Here, in a conversation with Haynes Johnson, Braddock, 39, talks about his business and what he sees as the problems facing traditional U.S. heavy industries:
"They didn't invest in the future. The steel industry, the auto industry, the centerline of American industries, their mentality was not to change. They would define the marketplace. It didn't matter what anybody else thought. That's the mentality they operated under.
"It was rotten entirely. They don't know how to do markets. They don't understand what people want. They weren't prepared to make the changes. They thought in terms that were dictatorial and they got caught.
"It's all a matter of orientation. The only thing that stays the same is that things change. The ways that worked last week are thrown away entirely. You know, it used to be very simple to say the unions were the problem. That the workers were getting paid too much. Maybe they were.
"The unions are a problem not because they help the workers but because they make costs higher and they don't get the productivity we need. But if there were no unions, we still would have lost to the Japanese because we weren't building the right products.
"So people have to get used to change in life and the union structure and the structure of those industries very often go against change. Our society has to be prepared to change totally. We can't go on with the same old ideas over and over. We've got to figure out ways to get people back in school.
"Our schools are an absolute disaster. They promote mediocrity, including the teachers. We don't need fancier schools. We need better teachers, and we ought to be prepared to do everything we can to get top-notch people in there. For a technologically based society to exist, we've got to have strong schools. Our schools only run nine months out of the year. They ought to be running 11.
"Times are changing. We're not in the '40s and '50s anymore, but too many of our institutions run that way. They haven't changed. Somehow our society needs to stimulate people to make the jumps that are now necessary.
"We've got a problem with older workers. They're burned out. They've got to have a way to make a transition from the assembly line to the new technologies and to have respect doing it. And it can be done.
"We had a guy who came to us from the automobile assembly line. His knees were bad so the state rehabilitation agency sent him to a drafting school. He became an electronics draftsman and probably one of the better layout designers the industry has ever had.
"With very little experience, the guy made the transition from an auto worker to a guy earning an equivalent salary in a job that offered tremendous mental stimulation and an opportunity to grow much, much further than on an automobile assembly line. His education was a high school diploma plus the drafting school. I've seen people with Ph.D.s trying to do the same job who didn't do as well.
"People need to look around and exploit the resources they've got. You keep hearing people say they want to be another Silicon Valley. What they fail to remember is that in this valley we destroyed one industry, farming, to create another. We're sitting here on some of the prime farm land in the world. It's been blown away.
"So each region of the country needs to work at what it does well. What I keep feeling so strongly is that we need to get American industry redefined in people's minds so they think of it as a good thing. We need to get work redefined as a good thing. We've got to have industry and academia and government work together. We've got to get some national cohesiveness.
"Also from the financial community side, we need not to be too selfish. And there's a real tendency to be selfish and not look at things from the common good. The stock market is a good example of what I'm talking about. It's so selfish it's obscene."