Most entrepreneurs start their companies in whatever town they happen to be living. But sometimes the city you're living in can feel all wrong. That was thecase with Bob Freese and three colleagues from 3M, in St. Paul, Minn., when they set out to start a company to manufacture optical-storage devices forcomputers. The cost of doing business in Minnesota was high, and they'd learned at 3M that A-list recruits were reluctant to move to so cold a climate, evenfor a job with one of the world's premier corporations. How could a start-up attract good people?
Engineers all, Freese and his colleagues did a methodical search for a home base, compiling data on cities across the United States, consideringhigh-tech infrastructure, quality of life, transportation, and talent pools. In the end, they settled on Research Triangle Park, in the Raleigh-Durham area ofNorth Carolina, to launch their company, Alphatronix.
The emerging interest in entrepreneurship in the region clinched the deal for Freese. "A small company coming into this area gets a lot of help from anorganization like the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, all of it free," Freese says. You go back to the mid-1980s, he notes, and the hot spots wereSilicon Valley, Southern California, and Boston. "But Cleveland, Kansas City, Raleigh-Durham--they all have a reasonably good quality of life, goodtransportation, good educational systems, a favorable climate for start-ups," says Freese. His main point: there's no need to consider your location a faitaccompli.