In late 2015, Bill and Jerri Glover decided to move themselves, and their budding software business, from Grass Valley, California to Amarillo, Texas, where costs were lower and the weather was better. Making the decision to relocate didn't come easy--Grass Valley's a haven for tech entrepreneurs who don't want to live in Silicon Valley--but the Glovers felt they could have a better shot at success by living in a less expensive locale. "It would have taken us three times as long to get off the ground if we had stayed," says Bill Glover.
While Bright Canopy, the software company the Glovers' founded, didn't have any employees, moving to a new city was not without its challenges. They had to find office space, ensure they had access to talent, get accustomed to new tax laws and, most importantly, find a place where they and their two children could live. "Moving can be painful," says Bill Glover, who was originally from Amarillo, but hadn't lived there in years. "Not just leaving where you're from, but it's a lot of work to set up somewhere new."
With the cost of living rising in cities across the country, many entrepreneurs are choosing to build their companies in smaller and more affordable places. Amarillo, for instance, has a cost of living index of 83, compared to 100 for the U.S. average, according to Sperling's Best Places. But while the idea of working from a more laid back locale may sound good, logistically, successfully moving and setting up shop in a new town takes a lot of work.
Get help from business organizations
The first place to start? Contact the city's economic development corporation (EDC), which can put you in touch with realtors, potential employees, tax experts and more. Small businesses operating in larger cities typically don't have much contact with EDCs, but in smaller cities, these organizations are eager to roll out the red carpet for newcomers. "We can play a vital role in the success of a relocation," says Brian Jennings, senior vice-president of business development at Amarillo EDC. "We will do everything in our power to help them move here."
Partly because of Amarillo's size--it has just under 200,000 residents--most people in the business community know one another. That makes it easy for Jennings and his team to put entrepreneurs in touch with the right experts. He's often connecting people with realtors, bankers, contractors and accountants. The EDC also helps companies building warehouses or office spaces with permitting and other city-related matters.
Amarillo's EDC was one of the first places Glover contacted after deciding to move. And while they offered to help in any way they could, the call was important for another reason: It made him see just how much the city cares about its business community. "It gave us a sense that the city was committed to growing businesses," he says. "It told us that there was a good business climate here."
Dig into data
Once a business owner arrives to their new locale, one of the first people they'll want to meet is an accountant. Every state has different tax regimes, which could significantly alter balance sheets and bottom lines, says Jennings.
Tax help is one of the more common requests Jennings receives--he's often putting people in touch with financial professionals and sending tax-related information to newly relocated companies. "We're more than happy to get these companies in front of tax consultants who can help them work through these issues," he says.
Amarillo's EDC can also provide other documents to help build a more comprehensive business plan. It's often receiving requests for workforce numbers, industry-specific research and other information. "We can provide a big data dump," says Jennings. "These folks are trying to run a business and if we can help them shoulder some of that responsibility then we will."
Find staff at community colleges
One of the hardest parts about moving is finding employees. In smaller locations, though, the education system can act as a talent pipeline, with officials often helping companies fill vacancies with students and graduates. "We work with organizations to understand the changing landscape for the workforce and we make sure we have programs in place to meet those trends," says Wes Condray-Wright, director of communications and marketing for Amarillo College, which has numerous associate degree and certificate programs.
Other companies can help new operations find talent, and deal with other logistical needs, too, adds Megan Eikner, Amarillo College's dean of technical education. In bigger cities, business don't often share information with one another, but in smaller locations, when one company does well, everyone benefits. "That's the beautiful thing about Amarillo," she says. "We're not in it for ourselves. We work together to figure out the best way for a business to get started."
For Bill Glover, the transition went better than expected. He rented an office at Amarillo's WT Enterprise Centre, an organization focused on helping entrepreneurs grow their companies. Because of the low cost of living in Amarillo, he could grow his company faster than if he remained in California. Just six months after starting Bright Canopy he sold it to California-based technology company Frame, which kept him on--in Amarillo--to help it continue growing the business he founded. "We've really enjoyed the move," he says. "We wouldn't have been able to do all of this if we didn't come to Amarillo."