5 U.S. Cities Poised To Become Tomorrow’s Tech Meccas

The downtown Denver skyline (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Pollination. It’s as natural as the sunrise. With the help of birds, bees, and animals, plants produce offspring. Fertilized seeds take root, sprout, and bear fruit, which is then eaten, and its seeds are scattered again.

This is happening right now as Silicon Valley’s innovative spirit spreads across America. To be sure, the Bay Area remains the nation’s most vibrant tech center. For 20 years, Silicon Valley has increased its tech-related patent registrations by a power of 10. Instead of holding tight to top talent, however, Silicon Valley is spreading its seeds. Those floating away are planting themselves firmly in other metropolises.

If you haven’t yet seen them bloom in your city, you will soon. More than two-thirds of tech workers now feel little or no need to live in the Bay Area. They’re buzzing eastward, finding opportunities in the Midwest, Northeast, and South — and everywhere in between.

2017s tech meccas looking to overthrow Silicon Valley

Where are these fertile fields attracting tech entrepreneurs and teams? Here’s a hint: They’re not the places you might expect.

1. Salt Lake City, Utah

Once known primarily for its Mormon Tabernacle Choir and fantastic vistas, Salt Lake City was recently ranked by Entrepreneur as the top startup destination outside of San Francisco or New York City.

For those in the know, the ranking wasn’t a big surprise. Three years ago, eBay took the lead by opening an enormous facility there. Venture capitalists have taken note, collectively offering hundreds of millions in seed money to Utah-based startups.

Vaughn Aust, EVP of marketing and product at MarketStar, partially attributes his company’s success to its relocation to Salt Lake City’s suburbs. Aust points to the city’s stable workforce, top-ranking tech universities, low cost of living, attractive climate, low crime rate, and family-friendly atmosphere. Plus, he explained, Mormon missionaries often return to their Salt Lake City roots, bringing back multilingual abilities and phenomenal sales skills.

At Domo, VP of Communications Julie Kehoe is just as passionate as Aust about the “Silicon Slopes.” She appreciates the business-friendly climate fostered through the region’s cultural roots of self-sufficiency and industriousness.

2. Denver, Colorado

The Mile-High City scores big with startups seeking talent, connectivity, and culture. It has such a following that a survey of 100 California tech workers indicated nearly half were prepared to relocate to places like Denver. They’re drawn by expanding tech workplaces, such as Google’s $150 million office complex in nearby Boulder, Colo., as well as dozens of growing startups.

Why? Scott Heimes, CMO of Denver-based SendGrid, believes the city has a unique blend of qualities, including its picturesque landscape and active, outdoorsy culture. The city’s residents, according to Heimes, are also a big part of the Denver draw. And it doesn’t hurt that Denver offers a business environment focused on public-private collaborations, either.

3. Atlanta, Georgia

Craving relocation to the East Coast? Opportunities for Atlanta-based tech jobs, including software developer, software programmer, and computer support roles, have grown far more quickly than the national average. Atlanta’s total tech jobs have grown by 46.7 percent since 2010 — almost 20 percentage points above the national average.

QASymphony CMO Jeff Perkins talks about Atlanta as a place with a flourishing business community that includes startup hubs such as Atlanta Tech Village, Switchyards Downtown Club, and Advanced Technology Development Center. With elite local universities like the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University churning out talent, he’s certain Atlanta’s tech boom is no fluke.

Like plenty of other Atlanta tech companies, QASymphony took money from venture capital firms. But Perkins dismisses the idea that Atlanta is a bubble waiting to be popped by unrealistic investor expectations and valuations. Instead, he sees Atlanta as an old-school business locale that attracts companies intent on generating real revenue. Startups including Pardot, Silverpop, Virtue Group, and SecureWorks would probably agree: They’re all Atlanta-based firms acquired in big exits.

Of course, Atlanta’s tight-knit tech community creates challenges for newcomers. Perkins recommends tech transplants “network, network, network” to break into the mix. Startup Chowdown, a local gathering of tech entrepreneurs, is a great way to meet people over heaping plates of Southern cuisine.

4. Portland, Oregon

Believe it or not, the tech community in Portland, locally known as the nation’s “Silicon Forest,” is actually growing faster than its Silicon Valley counterpart. From 2010 to 2013, Portland’s tech talent pool grew by almost 30 percent, outpacing Silicon Valley’s by nearly 10 percentage points.

Part of Portland’s appeal lies in its telecommuting opportunities: More than 6 percent of its workers do their jobs from home. That’s huge for startup employees in search of work-life balance.

Portland’s proximity to the Bay Area is a selling point for tech workers, too. Andy MacMillan, CEO of Portland-based Act-On, chose the city because of the neighboring Bay Area, quirky culture, affordable housing, and vibrant city life. MacMillan also noticed Portlanders take special pride in their work, contributing to their community however they can.

5. Seattle, Washington

Seattle isn’t just a paradise for coffee and music lovers: In 2016, it was heralded as the nation’s third-best tech city by CBRE. Tens of thousands of tech employees have migrated to the Emerald City since 2010, likely lured by top-notch salaries: Seattle’s tech workers make more than $110,000 per year.

Manuel Medina, CEO and co-founder of SaaS sales service Outreach, says success stories like DocuSign, Redfin, and Avalara make it a proven tech center. Microsoft and Amazon have also embedded themselves in the Seattle rhythm. Startup founders and enterprise tech teams mingle at GeekWire and Techstars community events. And in their downtime, Seattleites kayak Puget Sound and hike neighboring national park trails.

The outward migration from San Francisco is spreading prosperity and innovation to new places. As tech leaders settle in new neighborhoods, they challenge old ways of doing things, draw from local cultures, and create fresh solutions. All they need is a breeze and a warm place to land.

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