Beyond the Valley: 10 Blooming U.S. Cities for Tech

 
 
By Deborah Rothberg  |  Posted 2006-06-15
 
 
 

Beyond the Valley: 10 Blooming U.S. Cities for Tech


There is a ferocious debate among business, employment, technology and urban planning publications of late over the location of the next big U.S. technology hub.

Some put their money on the Rocky Mountain region, others point to massive land purchases by Google and Microsoft in potato country, but one of the things almost unanimously agreed on is that it will not be in Silicon Valley.

Why not?

For one, the cost of living is staggeringly high. A $70,000 salary in the San Francisco valley doesnt even ensure that an individual would break even, with costs of living roughly 40 percent higher than in Sacramento.

"To some extent, Silicon Valley has been a victim of its own success, causing the cost base of its companies to accelerate," said Paul Forster, CEO and co-founder of Indeed.com, a Stamford, Conn.-based job search engine.

"Not everyone wants to live the California lifestyle. There are places with a higher quality of life and tech-challenging positions," said Brandon Courtney, vice-president of Spherion professional services, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based staffing and recruitment firm.

Read more here about the tech market in Mountain States.

Second, realities of technology today allow for a certain amount of scattering of hot-spots.

"The reality of technology today is that with relatively low costs, you could build the infrastructure that would allow you to be a Silicon-like valley. But, there will only be one Silicon Valley," said Courtney.

The shifting employment market creates an environment where workers have some say in where they can go to find a good job.

"Because of the expanding economy and the reinvestment in technology, the demand for skilled professionals continues to strengthen.

The paradigm of the market has shifted from employer-driven to candidate-driven, with an added focus on employee retention," said Courtney.

In his keynote at the May Xtech Conference in Amsterdam, technology essayist and entrepreneur Paul Graham asked, "Could you reproduce Silicon Valley elsewhere, or is there something unique about it?" He hypothesized that as few as two elements could cause the formation of a new tech nucleus.

"I think you only need two kinds of people to create a technology hub: rich people and nerds. Theyre the limiting reagents in the reaction that produces startups, because theyre the only ones present when startups get started. Everyone else will move," said Graham.

While not everyone agrees with Graham, most concur that the right epicenter will draw the masses in the way that the San Francisco valley once did. Everyone has a list, and while each has the potential to spell out the next Silicon-like Valley, only one will.

Next Page: Potential new hubs.

Potential New Hubs


eWEEK editorial scoured dozens of news stories, job reports and technology forecasts, crunched them all together with a dash of insight, and came up with the following 10 cities and their surrounding areas.

  1. Seattle • City population: 570,430 • Companies that call it home: Amazon, RealNetworks, AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile • The details: The June 2006 Dice Report ranks Seattle No. 10 in available jobs, with 1,901 listed, up over 300 from one year ago. Indeed.com ranks Seattle No. 4 in number of tech jobs per capita, with 13 jobs per 1000 people. And a WashTech/CWA report issued this week calls Seattle a "bright spot" of technology growth in a recovering market.

  2. Atlanta • City population: 419,122 • Companies that call it home: Cingular, EarthLink, Internet Security Systems • The details: The June 2006 Dice Report ranks Atlanta No. 9 in available jobs, with 2,366 listed. Indeed.com ranks Atlanta No. 1 in tech number of jobs per capita, with 17 per 1000 people.

  3. Boston • City population: 569,165 • Companies that call it home: Akamai Technologies, EMC Corp., CMGI venture capital • The details: The June 2006 Dice Report ranks Boston No. 7 in available jobs, with 2,699 listed, up over 400 from one year ago. Indeed.com ranks Boston No. 5 in the number of tech jobs per capita, with 11 per 1000 people. WashTech/CWA, in a report issued this week, gives Boston props for holding its own in IT job creation after the recession.

  4. Washington, D.C. • City population: 553,523 • Companies that call it home: Sprint Nextel, America Online (nearby), Computer Sciences Corporation • The details: The June 2006 Dice Report ranks Washington No. 2 in available jobs, with 2,548 listed. Indeed.com ranks Washington No. 3 in the number of tech jobs per capita, with 14 jobs per 1000 people. WashTech/CWA, in a report issued this week, gives Washington props for holding its own in IT job creation after the recession.

  5. Dallas • City population: 1,210,393 • Companies that call it home: Aspen Communications, CompUSA, Electronic Data Systems, Kinkos • The details: WashTech/CWA, in a report issued this week, gives Dallas props for hold its own in IT job creation after the recession. Dallas is home to the "technology corridor," the source of nearly 100,000 jobs before the recession.

  6. Philadelphia • City population: 1,470,151 • Companies that call it home: Unisys, SAP America, Verizon • The details: The June 2006 Dice Report ranks Philadelphia No. 6 in available jobs, with 3,345 listed, up approximately 500 from one year ago. Indeed.com ranks Philadelphia No. 13 in the number of tech jobs per capita, with eight jobs per 1000 people.

  7. Chicago • City population: 2,862,244 • Companies that call it home: Accenture, US Robotics, Telephone and Data Systems, Click Commerce, Motorola (nearby) • The details: The June 2006 Dice Report ranks Chicago No. 5 in available jobs, with 3,648 listed, up almost 700 from one year ago.

  8. Orlando • City population: 205,648 • Companies that call it home: Lockheed Martin, Symantec, Electronic Arts (nearby) • The details: Indeed.com ranks Orlando No. 9 in the number of jobs per capita, with 10 technology jobs per 1000 people. Joel Kotkin, a writer on economic and political trends, lists Orlando among areas ripe to become the next Silicon Valley, noting its quick economic and population growth, and according to Inc. Magazine, among the reasons is that Florida has a job growth of 9.6 percent between 2001-2005, the third highest in the country.

  9. Los Angeles • City population: 3,845,541 • Companies that call it home: DirecTV, Belkin, Univision, Memorex • The details: The June 2006 Dice Report ranks Lose Angeles No. 4 in available jobs, with 5,218 listed, up over 700 from one year ago. NimbleCat.com, a tech job-tracking service, finds that Los Angeles comes in first place in tech job creation.

  10. Charlotte • City population: 651,359 • Companies that call it home: SPX Corporation, Time Warner Cable, Bank of America • The details: Indeed.com ranks Charlotte No. 7 in the number of tech jobs per capita, with 10 technology jobs per 1000 people. Inc. Magazine in its Boomtowns 06 report calls Charlotte the 11th best place in the United States to do business. The cost of living in Charlotte is 30 percent lower than in the San Francisco Bay Area.

There were more than a few cities and suburban areas that didnt make the top 10 but still show promising growth. Among these, a few areas stand out that are close enough to major metropolitan areas but not in such proximity that their costs skyrocket.

"We see a lot of technology job growth in pockets of Florida, Central New Jersey and in Maryland suburbs," said Courtney.

Areas of Nevada better known for gambling and sin came up more than once.

"Las Vegas and Reno are growing rapidly, and they continue to be on the higher end for job growth. In Las Vegas, specifically, theres been a 10-year run on call centers and shared service centers. Theres a lot of labor, and people want to live there," said Courtney.

However, most agree that due to growth in the popularity of telework and a stronger IT employment market, the jobs could end up nearly anywhere.

"I think were going to see a lot more people spread out because of the way communications technology makes it easy to work from anywhere, through e-mail and instant messages, and more and more videoconferencing," said Graham.

"In the end, the skills are going to be where the people want to relocate because theres a good quality of life."

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