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Three cities in Colorado in top ten leading destinations for U.S. brightest (bloomberg.com)
51 points by SQL2219 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments



Meh - Where I'm employed, in my "flyover state", I get to use the technologies that I like, some of which aren't very mainstream, and also I really like the developers I work with.

Not arguing the money aspect, but there are other priorities as well, and I'm a bit tired of the assumption that money trumps all, always. So go ahead and think your smarter based on where you move, and I'll just keep enjoying where I'm at...


I think you just argued against a straw man. The article didn't even really talk about salaries. This is about where people are moving from and to.

This is about tracking "business formation as well as employment and education in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics"

There was no call to move there, or statement that they are better places. But surely there is something interesting and possibly something to learn about by looking at migrations of people, especially STEM companies and employees.


Good! Part of the beauty of our chosen career is that we can work from pretty much anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. If you're happy where you're at, you're doing it right.

Personally, as a software engineer in Colorado, I wouldn't trade locations either. But that's because of the things CO has to offer - incredible outdoor recreation, 300 days of sunshine, mild winters, decently competitive salaries, affordable cost of living (on an engineer salary at least), and a culture where people prioritize being well-rounded as individuals instead of allowing work to dominate their lives.

Now, the article's headline "The Smartest Americans Are Heading West" is definitely a generalization, but the migration patterns of people shouldn't be dismissed as simple "money-seeking" - one reason trumping all the others fails to address the complexity innate to big personal decisions like choosing where to live.

What we should be asking is WHY people who fit the "smartness" criteria described in the article are deciding to move West - and then using that information to make informed policy decisions elsewhere.


> I get to use the technologies that I like, some of which aren't very mainstream, and also I really like the developers I work with.

So in other states, people have to use technologies they dislike, and work with people they dislike? Sounds dreadful.


Why so defensive?


Most people don't realize that Boulder is as small as it is. It has a population of 100k that is growing at 1% per year. 60k people commute into Boulder everyday (many from other cities in the county) and this number is growing much more rapidly.


Yeah - They really need to get that rail built along 36. I hate to say it but I hope CO isn't making the same short sighted mistake that CA made. The traffic hell and housing hell is on the horizon :(


They'll need to strongarm BNSF, which is trying to charge egregious fees for passage rights on their railways. It really gets my goat that the government is the one that gave the railways to BNSF for basically free in the first place.


Gave the railways to BNSF for basically free? I presume you're talking about the land grants back in the 19th Century; nothing else I can think of counts as "giving for free". Even then, though, the (Federal) government gave the railroads land for the track, plus blocks of land on the side. They didn't give them rail, much less an already-built railroad. True, the railroads were able to sell the land off to the side for money. But the government also required the railroads to carry the US Mail for less than cost. That continued until World War II, when the Federal government, desperate for additional money to fight the war, allowed the railroads to buy their way out of the obligation. That's hardly "for basically free" - it's an expense for the next 70 years, with a balloon payment at the end.


This was my first thought, too. The article starts out with, "Three cities in Colorado...," but goes on to discuss Metro Areas, which I think means "Boulder County."

Boulder County includes almost all of Longmont (a city of ~90k in which I reside) as well as another 100k+ in smaller towns and unincorporated areas; that's all Boulder County, but the majority of that is not considered part of Boulder the city.


Yes...Boulder is tiny. I find it very strange that it is relatively well known across America.


It was the hometown of Mork and Mindy. That's how I discovered it, at least...


There's lots of discussion of salary vs cost of living. Is there an economics term for this ratio?


Purchasing power, more or less.


Besides snow (assuming you don't like it), what are Colorado's negatives? Both the state in general and the cities mentioned.


I lived there for 10 years - its one of my favorite places to live, but there are a few things that can be perceived as negatives:

- snow/cold (however its the mildest you will find for a place that gets snow). But snow is snow if you don't like it

-if you are from the coasts (say CA) you may not dig the politics - mainly b/c its not a one sided echo chamber like I find CA to be. I found it to be a decent mix of both major parties. Some may not like this, but personally I found it refreshing.

- no oceans - land locked

- fairly isolated... besides Denver there are not a lot of large cities around to easily travel to. But the counterpoint to this is that DIA is a major airport with lots of flight options.

- public transportation is not really great - you will need a car, especially in the winter. But it is better than many major US cities (US public transportation is pretty awful in general anyway). This is one area I really wish CO would do a bit of forward thinking on building this out quickly now before it becomes CA bay area/LA. It is disconcerting considering that it would be fairly easy to accomplish since most of the populous cities in CO are located in a straight line North/South along the mountain range. Ideal for a high speed train with east/west light rail into the city cores. But, I digress... :)

- depending on the city/area you decide to settle in, pay is not quite where it needs to be to support the quickly rising housing costs. I visit probably 1-2x per year and it is amazing the amount of growth and population surge that has occurred in the past few years. Denver is experiencing a huge boom right now and housing is not keeping up. Outside of Denver or Boulder proper I found salaries to be pretty low compared to cost of living. For instance, I lived in one of the cities mentioned in the article (Fort Collins). Although IMO a great city to live, the IT job market is horrible. It may have a high concentration of intelligent people, but many of those are stuck working at coffee shops just to live in FC. But I guess that says a lot about FC and CO , people are willing to do that to live there...

These are just a few negatives that honestly may not really be negatives to many people. Of course there is no perfect place to live - you can spend your whole life searching for that. I'd list out the positives too, but this post would get really unruly :)


The housing prices in Boulder proper are insane.


Never been to CO personally, but friends say if you aren't into outdoor activities/slow lifestyle, it can be dull. A lot of social groups are centered around what you do outside.


> slow lifestyle

I've seen this before, but never quite understood what it means- lack of a 'night life?'


This is totally anecdotal but, moving from Mountain View to Denver was night and day. A couple of examples:

Work seems to go slower here. It seems even the frantic pace of startup life takes a back seat to work life balance.

People aren't usually in a hurry on the sidewalks downtown. It can be infuriating if you have somewhere to go.


Yep - but many people (myself included) see this as a good thing. :) It leads to drastic reduction in stress and an overall healthier (mind and body) lifestyle.

But if you are used to high stress and crappy work/life balance (or have adapted to that lifestyle) I can see how it would try your patience.


yes I guess if you are used to places like SF / CA bay area, LA or any of the big east coast cities. Also it is not located close to any other major cities so you are "stuck" with whatever Denver has to offer for the most part.

However the positive is the people in CO are the fittest in the nation due to this love of the outdoors.


I was new to Boulder, and noticed a lot of people jogging.

So I asked somebody in a store if there was a race or something.

They looked at me funny and, no, it's just Saturday in Boulder.


Median house value in Boulder proper is like $900k or something insane. You can still find cheap housing but it likely won't last due to high population growth. If you want to rent, bring a check for the deposit when touring so you can lock it down right away, otherwise you'll lose it.

Other than that, I'm not sure. Everywhere except Colorado Springs is pretty liberal, which not everyone loves. We've also gotten a lot more homeless people since weed was legalized.


I wold have considered CO, but after all the gun control measures, no way. Too many people from CA moving there, bringing liberal agendas, not libertarian. Is nice that pot was legalized though.


Born and raised there. Off the top of my head:

- Not much diversity aside from a large Hispanic population

- Sprawl. Endless repetitive suburbs

- I've heard people from large cities complain about it being boring

- Increasingly crowded

- Hard to make long term friends. Most people seem to stay 3-5 years and then go home or elsewhere

- Food is getting better but not great

- I-70 is a shitshow. Don't be surprised when at some point it takes you 8 hours to get back from skiing on a weekend

- Lack of water, closest ocean is 1000 miles away. No big lakes


Agreed on many of these. Diversity is low, foodies would go through withdrawal if they came from somewhere like SF bay area, and outside say Boulder, LoDo/downtown Denver or maybe FC it is just car-centric sprawl.

I-70 Denver to Summit county really needs a freaking train... Ugh


Coming from a small town in northeast I found lots of 'keeping up with the joneses' experiences. Important to display your wealth/fitness but in a way that youre not trying to display it. I found the subtleties exhausting. It was refreshing to return to a small town. Your experience may vary.


Yep. Growing up in an unremarkable Denver suburb, it was amusing moving to Boulder for college to see newcomers try to out-Colorado each other.


Sadly this in endemic to almost all large cities. If you think its bad in CO you should try CA. They take to a whole other level here...


I live in Boulder and it doesn't snow very much here. It feels about the same as it snowed in suburban eastern PA where I grew up.

Go up into the mountains 15 minutes away and that is another story...


Hailstorms (seasonal). Farther to the east, tornadoes.

Wildfires in the foothills, but not as points near the west coast.


You probably won't love it if you're black, if that makes a difference.


This entire article hinges on the "Bloomberg Brain Concentration Index", which does not seem to be defined.


How smart are they if they trade a 20% increase in pay for a 100% increase in cost of living?


Your setup premise is false. The pay increase is far beyond 20%.

1) The median household income in Denver CO is $64,000. That's around 77% higher than in Altoona PA. Two locations specifically referenced in the article.

2) The opportunities that pay a lot more than that gap, do not exist to begin with in Altoona. Software, Internet, misc engineer jobs - the locations that people are fleeing from are death zones economically. Denver and Boulder are quasi boom cities; the Altoona's are the exact opposite; that means, over the next ten years your income will very likely expand nicely in those CO locations, whereas you're very unlikely to see meaningful improvement in Altoona.

3) Lifestyle is important for most people and likely that much more so for people willing to move across the country for better opportunities. Boulder and Denver are both incredible by comparison to Altoona PA, when it comes to lifestyle upgrade.

To answer your question, the people desperately fleeing from all those dying economic zones, seeking a vastly superior future, are extremely smart indeed.


Minitel[dead]'s comment below is worthwhile: > I left Kentucky for California in my early 20's. I've been making > 100k per year since then and living as cheaply as possible to hold on to it despite the cost of rent. Most of my friends back home make 20-30k a year.

> The tradeoff is that quality of life is terrible. The cities are full of petty bug people. And COL makes living standards precarious for all but the wealthy and the extremely poor (government programs). The precariousness also inhibits the formation of stable IRL (as opposed to chat group based) friend groups.

> That said, after half a decade of this I've saved enough money to go back home and use stocks, real estate, and side hustles to put down roots with a decent quality of life.

> Sometimes I feel like Odysseus on Ogygia. It's easy to be trapped in one of these hubs so long that you miss out on the chance to exit young-adulthood gracefully. (Very sad the number of friends I have who decided to start a family too late and couldn't quite make it work out). --- Good luck making it to where you want to be!

It's good to remember that different people have widely varying preferences of quality of life - urban/rural, ocean/mountain/plain, wet/dry, tropical/temperate/less-temperate, etc. I'm glad not everybody wants to live in the same place!


Number 3 is really massive and a large reason I picked Denver over the valley. I can wake up everyday, hike a 14er for the sunrise, and be back in the city for work. If you're into mountaineering or an outdoor lifestyle, the cost of living is easily worth it.. The great thing is what you bring up though, the cost of living isn't actually that large when wages are sky-high for techies. I live 3 blocks from my office and I don't have to spend thousands a month for some shitty studio 30 minutes away.


> hike a 14er for the sunrise and be back in the city for work

Definitely not Longs. I guess you could drive to the top of Evans or Pikes Peak :)


Definitely Longs! It's only an hour and a half out.. Getting back though... the traffic just gets brutal.


It's a 10+ hour climb though? I'm good with a quick jaunt up Sanitas before work haha- you're (respectfully) nuts!


This is what people who are retirement age would have said about SV when they moved there.

Enjoy being retired in SV 2.0


4) Even if you already have a job. It is easier to finde a better job or find a new one if you are ever laid off in Denver than in Altoona.


I left Kentucky for California in my early 20's. I've been making > 100k per year since then and living as cheaply as possible to hold on to it despite the cost of rent. Most of my friends back home make 20-30k a year.

The tradeoff is that quality of life is terrible. The cities are full of petty bug people. And COL makes living standards precarious for all but the wealthy and the extremely poor (government programs). The precariousness also inhibits the formation of stable IRL (as opposed to chat group based) friend groups.

That said, after half a decade of this I've saved enough money to go back home and use stocks, real estate, and side hustles to put down roots with a decent quality of life.

Sometimes I feel like Odysseus on Ogygia. It's easy to be trapped in one of these hubs so long that you miss out on the chance to exit young-adulthood gracefully. (Very sad the number of friends I have who decided to start a family too late and couldn't quite make it work out).


> The cities are full of petty bug people.

What does that mean?


I think they mean a cross between a bug and a person. Sure wish I lived near some bug people.


> The precariousness also inhibits the formation of stable IRL (as opposed to chat group based) friend groups.

Also what does this even mean?


You make friends here and then 18 months later those friends move to Seattle/Portland/Reno/Las Vegas/Phoenix where they can actually afford to live.


This comment breaks the HN guideline which asks you to respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of a point, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize (please read https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow them).

The model in which masses of migrating people are too dumb to consider their own interest is less plausible than one in which a snarky internet dismissal might be failing to consider everything.


I am basing this on my own thought experiments while browsing jobs in various over-heated markets: Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Boston etc. Actually, the 100% increase is understated, the true figure is probably higher depending on the inputs.

Let's say you're living in Topeka, making $75,000, you happen to own an average home with a market value of $150,000. Amazon Seattle offers you a job for $130,000. Is taking the job a better deal when the average home in Seattle is $700,000? Your $1,000 Topeka mortgage payment will quadruple consuming 50%+ of your take home pay.


Could I posit for a moment that if you're not right out of school taking your first job that you should not accept an engineering position (making an assumption here) at Amazon in Seattle for 130k? If you have experience that number is way too low, even if it's only the base salary. Add 30k to that number, then add in the value of your RSUs that will be liquifiable after 1-3 years, and suddenly your argument stops holding water from a purely economic perspective.

Also, consider what happens to your asset value when your 150k home in Topeka grows at the normal rate there vs a 700k home growing at the rate home values are in Seattle. You could build a very nice amount of equity in the expensive market, sell it and then buy a gigantic/perfect/<insert your reqs here> house back in Topeka in cash and have no mortgage. These markets (Seattle, SF, Denver, ect.) have their appeal even if you don't care about the city life or mountains or whatever.


It doesn't matter how much you spend, it matters how much you save.


My mantra has always been spend your time and effort trying to make more money, not saving it. If you have a decent head on your shoulders, and a good family to fall back on, then investing in creating your network in a city or company with other aspiring people is going to win out many times over versus concerning yourself with saving.


Yeah, but maxing out your 401K contribution for the first 20 years of your career is much more productive than doing it the last 20 years. If it were not for the withdrawal penalty, I could retire now at 46 and live off the interest alone. If I keep slugging away another 20 years, I’ll have several $M.

You need to save when you are young to take advantage of compounding interest. Don’t get caught up in the rat race.


401(k)s don't provide the level of security I want. Given the history that I've learned and the current state of demographics and financials around the USA/world, I think inflation is the only way out, until it can no longer be sustained and then revolution. Simply because so much of society is invested in the "market", I believe the government has no choice but to keep bailing it out, but I figure that only helps you keep up with inflation.

My ideal is to directly have ownership in businesses with strong cash flow, good real estate value, citizenship and property in another country or two, and most importantly, to have the human capital of knowing the right people in government/medicine/law/etc to be able to lean on the right people when I need them.

I'm lucky enough to have a stable family so that I can afford to take risks to try to make the above happen (some of which I have made significant progress in), but I definitely don't plan on depending on my 401(k) other than as a worst case scenario.


This.

Not to mention, after saving similar (or more) you'll own a home 5x in value.


Making $75,000 in Topeka? That seems somewhat high. Is that just a number for a thought experiment, or is that realistic?


Getting fired/laid off in Topeka means you'll have a harder time finding a new job than you will in Seattle.


It cuts both ways; talent is harder to find in regions like Topeka, so that means much less competition compared to places like Seattle. It also means employers will work harder to retain decent employees compared to tech hubs where talented engineers are plentiful.


I've not seen any correlation between availability of engineers and how hard retaining efforts are. It really comes down to if management knows what they're doing, or has their head up their ass.


So don't get fired or start looking for a job when you see the writing on the wall.

It's not rocket science.


Cost of living is higher and the increase pay doesn't always make up for it...but also keep in mind the non-tangibles. If you move to one of those areas, you're going to surround by some of the top tech talent in the country. That means you're learning, collaborating, competing, and socializing with some of the best peers you could have anywhere. That has a lot of career advantages...mobility, huge potential for upside, exchange of ideas, etc. It also boosts the standards of local universities, schools, etc.


Unfortunately the nature of specialization means that jobs you are qualified for and will be paid well for are more likely to be located in dense urban areas. My wife and I, who are both engineers but with different specialties, had to face this recently when we relocated to her home state.


They're smart enough to know your numbers are wrong.




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