Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick Visits Microsoft to Build Ties With the Northwest

Yesterday morning in Redmond, WA, Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts sat down with Ray Ozzie, the chief software architect of Microsoft. They talked about high-tech innovation in the Boston area, how Microsoft views its own global future, and how the company could work together with Massachusetts to help drive the local economy.

“I was talking with Ray about what we have to offer in Massachusetts,” Gov. Patrick said afterward, “and how he is thinking about a distributed organization—not entirely focused on Redmond, but centers of gravity around the world.”

Patrick clearly would like to pull more of Microsoft into orbit around Boston’s technology cluster. His agenda on this West Coast trip—which also includes visits to Portland, OR, and to Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook, and Electronic Arts—is to promote Massachusetts as a cutting-edge leader in technology, and to build relationships that could lead to new high-tech jobs and economic growth in his home state. The governor briefed a group of reporters by phone while rushing off to the airport to catch a flight to Portland.

In their meeting with Ozzie, Gov. Patrick’s team spoke of Boston’s innovation strengths in e-health (including electronic medical records), Internet video, gaming, and mobile communications. Ozzie pointed out the strong high-tech talent pool in the Boston area, as well as the high quality of education in Massachusetts, from K-12 public schools to elite universities. They discussed Microsoft Research New England in Cambridge, MA, which officially opened last September, as being part of the company’s efforts to tap the best local talent in computer science and mathematics.

That point came to the fore during a Q&A session Patrick took part in with Microsoft employees. “There were an awful lot of people from Massachusetts working at Microsoft,” said the governor. “They’re here in some cases because in order to move up in Microsoft, it was perceived that you had to be in Redmond. Ray and others are trying to move to another model. Their lab in East Cambridge is a step in that direction.”

It was interesting to hear how Patrick portrayed Microsoft as an innovation leader—a view not everyone in the tech industry would share. “Microsoft is unique, or uncommon, among American companies in terms of their consistent focus on what’s next, looking out five, 10 years,” he said. “It’s not just about jobs today, but how to prepare ourselves for future growth…It’s about branding our tech sector in a fresh way, both as a platform for all the other innovation industries we’re trying to drive, and also as a source of innovation on its own.”

As for what progress had been made on any partnerships with Microsoft, Patrick wasn’t specific. “These are first meetings, or second conversations. We’re not expecting commitments so early in the relationship,” he said. “We want to build a strong foundation, we want to be in play. We want the relationship to deepen. It’s a step in that direction.”

And then it was off to a different tech sector for Patrick. In Portland, the Massachusetts Democrat was slated to meet with Vestas, the world’s largest maker of wind turbines. “We’ll talk about a testing facility and the opportunity to partner with them on that,” he said. “I’m interested in alternative energy and the creation of jobs around manufacturing turbines.”

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