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

By Deborah Rothberg  |  Posted 06-15-2006

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 doesn't 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. They're the limiting reagents in the reaction that produces startups, because they're 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.

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.

    Read the full story on eWEEK.com: Beyond the Valley: 10 Blooming U.S. Cities for Tech