While almost everyone thinks of high tech as synonymous with Silicon Valley recent research shows there is actually a fair amount of high tech activity in a lot of places around the United States. If you think of the high tech sector as industries with a concentration of jobs in engineering, science, math and technology, then there are 78 metro areas in the United States that have significant high tech activity. That activity is gauged by the number of start-ups happening in each location in relationship to all other locations in the US.
Elsewhere In The U.S.
Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Seattle and Cambridge are still in the mix at the top of the list of US tech hubs, but smaller college towns around the country are also attracting venture capital; places like, Boulder, Ann Arbor and Lawrence Kansas are now fostering tech start-ups. High tech is beginning to disburse opportunity more broadly and that is the foundation of a healthier economy. And it’s not just college towns that provide entry to the tech world, places with government defense and aerospace activities are also attracting high tech venture capital because of technology start-ups.
So do places like Boulder, Colorado, Cheyenne, Wyoming, Corvallis, Oregon and Ames, Iowa really threaten the established big-time technical hubs? These places are finding a foot hold in the larger technical scene, but another feature of technical hubs is that they crop up around a cluster of other significant technology resources. The big five or six technology hubs in the US, Silicon Valley, Austin, Texas, Cambridge MA, Seattle, WA, Washington D.C. And New York, NY still have significant advantages stemming from long-standing development. D.C has the political world, New York has the financial world, Cambridge has the educational/ intellectual world, Silicon Valley has the digital world that started there, Seattle has Boeing and all the technology that surrounds aerospace and the Austin/ Dallas area has Texas Instruments and the early jump on solid state electronics.
The dot com industry in New York City has come to be known as Silicon Alley. With it’s dense population and long history of corporate life, New York has established itself as the third most important technical start-up center in the US. The city is large enough to have an ancillary venue along the route one corridor between Princeton and Trenton, which is also called Silicon Alley and which brings the additional research side of start-ups to the table in New York. Since the original start-ups in Silicon Valley turned to Wall Street bankers for capital, it’s fair to say that some of the original financial innovations around venture capital were actually centered in New York. It only makes sense that the financial resources of Manhattan would continue to play a significant role in high tech start-up finance, and it has, pretty much, all along.
Boston is the second most active start-up center in the US behind Silicon Valley, since Boston has several unique advantages that keep it in the high tech mix. First of all, a great deal of the research for artificial intelligence and digital integrated circuits was started at MIT. The legacy of being at the center of many early technology developments continues to keep Cambridge invested in US high tech growth. While the start-ups in the Boston area tend to be smaller than in Silicon Valley, that is actually an opportunity to leverage angel investors who tend to stay closely involved with the technology. Also, Cambridge is a small place. Originally, when Silicon Valley was beginning to develop solid state chips the beauty of the circumstances was that the Silicon Valley community of that time 1950s and 1960s, was small and close together, but success in so many areas over the last six decades has spread Silicon Valley out considerably. Boston’s high tech community doesn’t have that problem, instead remaining a closely situated group of entrepreneurs, which fuels creativity.
Money Still Talks
The hit on all three top high tech hubs, Silicon Valley, Boston and New York, is they are expensive places to live. That makes a difference to people who want to own a house, so the cost of living has become one reason many California entrepreneurs now turn to Austin when they get down to starting their enterprise. About a quarter of the start-ups in Austin are displaced Californians. Since Texas Instruments is headquartered in Dallas, there has always been a significant amount of high tech activity in the north central region of Texas. One of the co-inventors of solid state electronics, Jack Kilby, was a Texas Instruments employee. Both the city of Austin and the state of Texas aggressively attract technical start-ups. Austin has several early-stage incubators that successfully support young companies, and Texas offers more Emerging Technology financial support grants than any other state in the US. That combination attracts entrepreneurs.
Sniping At The Border
Finally, we might take a look at what high tech means to our closest neighbor to the north. Canada, is of course, not U.S., but it is actively pursuing a place in the North American technical start-up boom. The best and brightest people from all over the world are piling into Silicon Valley, except there’s one problem, the H-1B US visa program. That visa offers temporary residence to high-skill technology workers while they wait to get permanent status. It’s a complication for career development that can hold back growth because of the uncertainties of attaining that final permanent resident status. Canada extends a much more accommodating offer. Canada holds out permanent residency to entrepreneurs who speak either French or English, have completed at least one year of college and have arranged financing in Canada. Toronto is the most successful start-up city in Canada and partly because of government efforts to lure non-US entrepreneurs away from California.
There are both, well established high tech hubs, and a newer crop of start-up cities that spreads opportunity further than in previous decades. The digital economy is taking hold in more places, which raises the question, will high tech opportunities flourish enough to lift the economy out of its extended flat employment situation?
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