A few weeks back I wrote about how, in recent years, Portland, Oregon has become a popular alternative to Silicon Valley. It’s attracting big companies like Google and giving the area the nickname “Silicon Forest.” However, as the article accumulated several thousand shares, it also sparked some outrage and backlash from people who live in the area, concerned about how Portland is “becoming the next San Francisco.”
It’s true. There are issues that come with “San Francisco-ization,” as several people put it, including overpopulation and higher housing costs. At the same time, however, many Portland-area residents are excited to see the influx of tech talent.
Something perhaps even more interesting occurred as well. People from other tech hubs across the country spoke out, saying something along the lines of, “If Portland doesn’t want the talent, we’ll take it.” People from Austin, LA, New York and Denver were represented as usual. But what really caught my attention were the folks from less-discussed tech hubs who claimed their locales are ideal for startups looking to plant roots. Here are just a few of these unsung startup tech cities.
I had to do some research when one guy on Twitter sang the praises of his native Roanoke. Turns out, with Virginia Tech only 45 minutes from the heart of the city, Roanoke is a natural fit for tech startups. As a business grows, it can choose from the large number of graduates who choose to settle in the city. Workers in the area have access to Roanoke’s low cost of living without sacrificing the many amenities in other cities, including culture, shops and restaurants.
San Diego, California.
It seems odd to put the eighth largest city in the U.S. on this list, but San Diego generally hasn’t gotten as much attention in recent years from the biggest tech companies or startups looking to get off the ground. Those who do plant roots here though know that the environment is ideal, with nice weather year round and a heavy stream of tech talent flowing from the University of California San Diego (UCSD).
While the cost of living is high compared to national averages, it is significantly lower than San Francisco’s current cost of living, which is often considered the highest in the country. San Diego is widely known as an epicenter of biotechnology research. It is also home to a large number of corporate headquarters, including tech companies Silicon Beach Software and Technology Integration Group.
As one of the fastest-growing areas for tech jobs, Provo is seeing an influx of startups. Both Provo and Salt Lake City have seen greater dollar-per-deal investments from venture capitalists than many other cities, with Provo’s startups rivaling even San Francisco’s for investment amounts. Provo’s cost of living is only slightly higher than the national average, making it easily affordable for a tech company’s workers. Additionally, the city has been named as having the highest level of well-being of any city in the country.
San Antonio, Texas.
Like its higher-profile neighbor, Austin, San Antonio is attracting tech startups by the dozens, especially those in the biotechnology and cybersecurity fields. The area is popular due to its culture and history, making it a tourist destination as well as an ideal place for young workers. The city has seen a 15.7-percent increase in tech talent in recent years, with a population of more than 26,000 employed technology workers. You probably didn’t know it, but San Antonio is now the 7th largest city in the U.S., and it has a lower-than-average cost of living, as well.
With tech industry employment growth at a staggering 65.8 percent between 2001 and 2013, the Nashville area is becoming an unexpected tech leader. Part of this is due to the area’s tremendous growth in general. In fact, four of the area’s counties rank in the Top 100 fastest-growing in the country. One of the city’s biggest benefits is its low cost of living, which is 0.80 percent below the national average.
With 68.02 tech employees per 1,000 jobs, Huntsville has the talent new businesses need to accomplish their goals. The median rent in the area is far lower than cities like Seattle and San Jose, which has put it on many businesses’ radar in recent years. Much of the attention focuses on Cummings Research Park, which is one of the world’s leading science and technology business parks. The businesses located in the park include Fortune 500 companies AT&T, IBM, and Comcast.
For businesses looking for an affordable alternative to Silicon Valley, one of the above six cities may be the right option. In addition to cost of living, businesses should consider the amount of tech talent in the area, even if they haven’t begun hiring yet. An area with a low cost of living, access to schools and amenities, and a bearable commute may also provide all the features employees need to begin working for a business and stay there for many years.