My wife and I used to live in Silicon Valley, but we escaped right around the time when living there became irrational (1999). I recently looked up the value of the house we sold, and wished we hadn't.

The Economist reports that a median-priced home in the  San Francisco Bay Area costs $940,000--more than four times the national average. Forty-six percent of  Bay Area residents plan to leave "in the next few years."

Ironically, tools created in Silicon Valley (such as Slack) have made it easier for people to work remotely and for companies to start up outside urban areas where the cost of living is significantly lower. According to PitchBook, less expensive alternative cities like Seattle and San Diego feature venture capitalist investments of over a $1 billion a year. There is also a bit of backlash, led by Peter Thiel and other technology luminaries who view Silicon Valley as too political.

Here are some tech hubs that are thriving:

Portland, Oregon

Portland's famous tagline is "Keep Portland weird." It is succeeding. According to VanderHouwen, average incomes are up a staggering 20 percent in two years, and the number of people under 65 who have moved to the city has increased by 32 percent in six years. Growing startups there include Vacasa and Urban Airship.

Seattle

Seattle's tech scene extends well beyond Microsoft. After Amazon built an e-commerce empire there, others, including Walmart's e-commerce business, have settled in to try and steal talent from across town. Like San Francisco, Seattle suffers from significant homelessness and other social strife, often in the areas where companies are trying to attract talent.

Austin

"Silicon Hills" has been dubbed the tech epicenter of Texas, ever since Dell opened its doors for the first time there in the 1980s. Innovators like Apple, eBay, IBM, and Intel have also established themselves in the area. Already known as the live music capital of the world, Austin is business-friendly and now boasts tech startups such as Tastemade, Chive Media Group, RetailMeNot, and more. 

Washington, D.C.

D.C. has become the United States' cyber center, with commercial businesses seeking out military-level security and protections. Education-related businesses like LexisNexis and Kaplan are building a D.C. hub. While it isn't growing as rapidly as other technology-rich regions, about a third of the digital workforce lives there, according to a Greater Washington Partnership report. Mayor Muriel Bowser has sponsored "The Lab @ DC," dedicated to converting scientific research into actionable policy.

Here are some emerging tech hubs:

Detroit

Detroit, a technology hub? It's true. As mainstream American car-makers move toward autonomous vehicles and embedding more technology within their offering, innovation labs are proliferating. Forbes predicts that the future of mobility will attract yet more tech leaders to Motor City, as it harbors more mobility startups than any other region.

Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

Long recognized as the "research triangle," the region is known for its brick buildings, universities, and great golf courses. Raleigh-Durham has been ground zero for revolutionary medical research and students graduating from universities are seeking to stay close to home, so the triangle's universities are steadily churning out medical professionals and engineers.

The Charlotte area was  christened by real estate firm CBRE as its "top momentum market" in 2016 because of its 74.7 percent tech-talent growth rate in five years.

Huntsville, Alabama

ZipRecruiter's list of fastest-growing tech towns includes Huntsville, which had over 300 percent technology job growth year over year as of 2017 (the top job being software engineer). SlateTech credits public-private partnerships and mayoral support for sustaining economic growth in the area. Home to Boeing and Northrop Grumman, Huntsville's significantly lower cost of living and higher average salary for tech jobs provides fertile ground for the city to become a technology leader.

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids hosts 17 universities and colleges, ensuring a perpetual stream of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) grads. Like Huntsville, low housing costs are likely to entice both workers and up-and-coming businesses. Grand Rapids is host to notable companies including Meijer, Bissell, Spectrum Health, Amway Corporation, and more.

Orlando, Florida

Home to companies like Deloitte, AAA, and JetBlue, Orlando is a hotbed for tech startups. Nicknamed "The City Beautiful," Orlando's access to capital (with droves of venture capital firms such as FAN Fund and Inflexion Partners making investments there), absence of state income tax, and growing talent pool have lured Silicon Valley companies eastward. The Tech Matching Grant Pilot Program is kickstarting innovation in the area by providing matched-funding support for technology-focused events and programs taking place in the city.

Published on: Sep 25, 2018