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Ask HN: Cities underserved by tech jobs?
42 points by ChuckMcM 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 82 comments
This question came up in a meeting today and I thought I would ask the HN community for their insights. The company (could be any company but happens to be the one I'm currently working for) is in a position to open an office "anywhere" in the continental US. The projects this company takes on happen to involve embedded Linux systems and software defined radio systems, but lets not focus too much on the flavor of tech.

What cities in the US could be helped by having a company that was employing 30 - 50 technical workers (engineers) locate there? Are the cities already attractive to technical talent (already living out there) or willing to relocate there?

Everyone knows "Austin" or "Denver" or "Research Triangle Park" but how about other heartland cities?




Atlanta has a budding tech scene. Georgia Tech is a great research institution and it happens to produce a bunch of radio engineers. I know several that work in the field of SDR / FPGA.

Atlanta is a great place to live. Super affordable cost of living, great food and music scenes, and offers a ton of things to do. It's a city in a forest -- there are so many trees it's unbelievable. There's lots of hiking, kayaking, climbing, and boating within an hour's reach of the city.

Atlanta has so much room for growth, too. People won't get priced out anytime soon.

There's a lot of diversity here, too! Ethnic, career, interest, lifestyle. You name it. Atlanta has the least amount of monoculture I've seen. There are so many different types of people here.

And I've already said it's cheap, but anecdotally: I own a 2bd/2ba 2,000 sqft condo in the city with 25' ceilings and floor to roof windows with city views. My mortgage is only $2,000/mo. It's directly on the Beltline, a mixed use running/biking trail that surrounds the city and is one of the best things about Atlanta. I run to work everyday.

I love the life here.

Come to Atlanta! We'd love to have y'all! I'd be happy to give you a tour if you come out this way.


Atlanta was pretty hot and humid when I visited. I could see it being OK to live in, but I wouldn't spend as much time outside as I could on the west coast.

Also, if I was going to live in a southern city with the heat and humidity, I think New Orleans would be way more exciting. I haven't been there since Katrina, but the cafes in the French quarter (and even outside of it) are almost other worldly.


Having lived in Atlanta and visited New Orleans 2 years ago, I'm more in agreement with GP. New Orleans seems interesting for a vacation but I can't imagine actually living anywhere near the French Quarter. This article about Amsterdam[1] sums up what I think it might be like.

Not to mention Georgia Tech and Emory are world-class institutions. Atlanta and the surrounding suburbs are home to many Fortune 500 company headquarters (Coca-Cola, UPS). New Orleans, and Louisiana doesn't really have anything like that to compare, AFAIK.

1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/04/amsterdam-brit...


Atlanta has a budding tech scene. Georgia Tech is a great research institution and it happens to produce a bunch of radio engineers. I know several that work in the field of SDR / FPGA.

Atlanta has been a great place for software developers at least since the mid 90s. You won’t make SV style wages but you also don’t have SV cost of living.

And from another perspective, if you have a family and want a place suitable for a spouse and the 2.1 kids, the burbs are really affordable and some have a great school system. You can buy a house with 5 or six bedrooms, 3+ bathrooms 2500 square feet for less than $350K. Jobs aren’t all “inside the perimeter” so your commute doesn’t have to be long. There are plenty of tech jobs in the burbs.


You may get priced out of Midtown though :( 2000/mo for 2000sqft just isn't possible in Midtown. As you've said, there are other places to live though.

Tech scene is really great though.


i'd hardly consider not paying $2k for 2k sq ft in Midtown "being priced out." the term is "market demand."


ABQ.

It's Denver with better weather and far lower levels of congestion and cost of living.

Someone was crowing about a mortgage of $2000/mo. for a 2000sf condo. That'd be about $1200/mo. here, plus it would be freestanding and come with a yard.

Airport is surprisingly versatile, with daily nonstops to all your favorites.

The mountains are every bit as impressive as Denver's, but half as far away a drive, half as crowded, and we have great river trails too. You will not find a more impressive array of history, culture, and food in this country.

You can breathe here, with zero mold allergens, and thin dry air that takes a weight off your spirit. Since the cost of living here is so low, you can be poor here and feel rich. In Silicon Valley, you have to be very rich to not feel very poor. Even then, I'm not convinced even a multibillionaire out there feels as rich as I do here.

There's a reason they call it a sunny disposition, and while other areas in the mountain west tie ABQ for sunny days, nobody really beats it.

We have two Intel fabs, AFRL, two other national labs, plus a number of smaller commercial companies, but our industrial base is stagnating and slightly shrinking. Some talent is here, they work for peanuts, and ready to come on board without breaking six figures.

To an extent beyond most of the others on this list, NM is willing to shell out in terms of leases, build-to-suit, training, and tax incentives, especially for good-quality high-paying jobs. And 30-50 new jobs is not too small for us to notice or care.


For the rest of us not versed in city acronyms, ABQ is Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Also has outstanding food.


Chicago is a real city with skyscrapers and trains and everything. Any experience you want - whether white-picket-fence suburbia, downtown glass-and-steel high rise, or trendy urban neighborhood with street life - is available at within a reasonable housing and commute time budget. The tech opportunities there are concentrated in Office Space-type cost center IT on one hand, and commodities trading on the other, so an engineering-first company would be highly attractive. You might get some domain-specific talent re: radios from the ghost of Motorola.

Chicago belongs in the same breath as NY/SF/LA, so wouldn't be seen as a huge step down for someone relocating, but is drastically cheaper.


I don't know if I'd say Chicago is "under-served" but I will say that Chicago is an awesome city. It's probably my favorite city in the US, although I would not live there (year round) due to the harsh winters. But the food, the nightlife, the energy, the food, the music, the food, and oh yeah, did I mention the food? Seriously though, Chicago is a great place to spend time, and if you don't mind some cold weather and snow, it's probably a great place to live and work.


Agreed (but I'm biased). Companies could get some great tech talent for relatively cheap in Chicago.


Hot and miserable in the summer and cold and miserable in the winter.


Heating and air conditioning are solved problems, unlike NIMBYism.


Only if you’re spending all your time indoors.


Oak Ridge, TN has a national lab campus with the fastest super computer in the world which is close to one of the only nuclear power plants planned to be constructed in the near future. There is relatively little VC funded tech compared to the huge amount of government funding. Low taxes, cheap power, plenty of water, and a high density of researchers make it seem like fertile ground to me.


Madison, WI might not be as well known as it should. Big engineering, math, and CS programs at the university, but still limited tech-job listings. The state is only just beginning to come around to supporting startup businesses, so there is some buzz. Recently got a non-stop route to SFO.

Really great location, between a group of lakes, and some really great cultural options for a small city.

Epic is here. Some other names too but I thought someone should add it to the responses.


Phoenix. Tons of transplants from SF have moved here already, ASU is nearby, Sky Harbor has tons of flights going to all of the tech hubs in the US, cost of living is affordable and there's a decent amount to do here as well.

We have a tech scene, but I wouldn't consider us a big hub at the moment. Most companies just have support or administrative staff here.


I was just in Phoenix last week after visiting the Grand Canyon.

I can't imagine _why_ someone would move from the 70F of SF to the 115F of Phoenix. Even at midnight it's still over 90*F.

This coming from someone who lives in DFW.


Why someone would move from SF to PHX area? ummm considering the average rent in SF is $3340[0] and the average rent in PHX is $955[1], I cant possibly imagine why someone would want to do that.

Plus PHX is really only that hot May to September. PHX is like other deserts and generally very pleasant outside of the summer with lots of sun, which isn’t something you can always say about SF.

0: https://www.rentcafe.com/average-rent-market-trends/us/ca/sa... 1: https://www.rentcafe.com/average-rent-market-trends/us/az/ph...


I'm sorry, I must not have been clear enough. I meant, why someone from SF, with perfect weather, would decide to move to Phoenix of all places.

Cheap land can be found in the vast majority of this country, Phoenix just seems like the polar opposite of climate from SF.


SF is nice, but I wouldn't call the weather there "perfect" by any stretch. Last time I was there it was cold, rainy, and basically miserable. OTOH, there is a lot of great food to be had in SF...


Wait... SF has perfect weather? I think you are excluding several months of rain and the surprising cold of the bay.


What rain are you talking about? In fact, we could use more rain if anything. I can't even remember the last time it rained.


Flagstaff might be OK (high desert, not as hot). Los Alamos is in the same boat (with an interesting history as well, supposedly they have some tech startup scene now as they move away from defense).


Because that is 3 months of the year. The other 9 are perfect weather. Essentially we don't have to shovel snow during our hibernation season


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix,_Arizona#Climate

5 months out of the year the mean is above 80F.


Not sure why there is an assumption that everybody likes 68F with miserable fog. Some people actually like 80-90F temperature. I do. 90+ is too hot sure, and I get that PHX is 100+ for 3 months. I like to be able to walk outside in a tshirt at night, instead of wearing a down jacket. I live in the Bay area and it's far from perfect weather. I can only live in the East Bay where there's actually summer temperature (80+F outside in the day time now and I love it). Living in SF would be pure misery to me. I would totally consider moving to PHX, but I first have to convince the wife. :)


I'll take 90 degrees with low humidity over 80 degrees and muggy _any_ day of the week.


Because land is cheap? Not rhetorical, I honestly have no idea.


Phoenix is ripe for a tech explosion but likely has been hindered by the government and it's aversion to incentives.

Perfect weather 70% of the year, summer's are hot but easily escapable due to pools and air conditioning, one of the largest public universities in country, unreal amounts of sunshine, little humidity, huge swaths of available land, low cost of living/rent, little traffic besides rush hour, and its trending blue politically as a result of all the inflow of former residents from CA, OR, etc.

San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas all are with-in a 1 hour flight from Sky Harbor. Massive elevation changes with-in 1+ hour drive. Wine country and Mexico to the south and ski slopes/alpine forests and Grand Canyon/Lake Powell to the north.

Will be a swing state in the next 8 years and is likely to have a education focused Dem Gov over the next 4. A focus on education and incentives to lure more tech will be the key.


Tucson. We have the University of Arizona here but most of the city is plagued with terrible sales positions and very few tech jobs. Tech jobs here are limited to Raytheon, the university itself and the small IBM office out here.


I agree. I think the entire southwest in general from El Paso to Tuscon to ABQ is lacking in this area. It's what kept me from moving to an otherwise beautiful area.


And the starriest nights of any city in the USA.


Columbus, Ohio has the best quality of life I've ever experienced. I've lived in NJ/NYC, Boston, and now SoCal. If I could work for my company while living in Columbus, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

It actually reminds me a lot of Austin before people figured out that Austin was cool.


I can second this, having worked in tech in Columbus for a number of years.


Rochester, NY. Very affordable real estate, many of the prime areas of the city and suburbs are served by gigabit fiber, and between local universities and industry a surprising amound of technical talent is present in the area: some recently graduated, some the legacy of Kodak, Xerox, and other older companies, and some from defense firms like Harris, ITT, etc. The quality of life is very high with good restaurants, many local parks, festivals, and strong cultural institutions (great indie cinema, and a world-class orchestra). The costs are low, and it's still reasonably close to NYC and Boston in distance and culture. Sure it has winter, but it also has <$200k Victorian homes and tree-lined streets.


Oh god no. Rochester is not a good place to move to if you have no one. Social life is very minimal and people are not that friendly.


Chattanooga, city government and non profits are itching to be supportive, small but enthusiastic engineers community, super high quality of life.


The issue I have with TN is that it is still the Deep South. So is GA, but Atlanta provides a refuge.


Also, I was curious, and by the Wikipedia definition[1] TN doesn't qualify as "deep south". We definitely still have our share of problems and there are "southern" things that drive me crazy but it's not quite as back woods as many people believe.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_South


I worked for a company based out of a TN so I was there a lot. I was the only Black person who worked at the entire company of 200+ people. When another Black guy I recommended was hired they always called me by his name. Someone asked were we related.

It wasn’t bad, but I was there during the Presidential Election, it was....interesting.


There is a definite ultra conservative "culture fit" that is common in the business culture of the region. Newer companies don't seem to be effected.


Chattanooga is a similar refuge, Democratic mayor and pretty liberal local government, 4th most democratic voting county in '16 (although admittedly still red by a small margin, mostly due to the outer reaches of town)


It seems like a mid sized Midwestern city could fit the bill. Grand Rapids, MI or Des Moines, IA both seem like good fits to me. (Colleges, low unemployment, spacious to support growth, ripe for more tech companies) I base this off the thought to "help the city". So a large Midwestern city (Chicago/Indianapolis/St Louis/Kansas City) would see little impact from as few as 50 workers. Likewise in a West Coast city with Bay Area expats. And East Coast with abundance of Gov't Contractor tech jobs. I don't know the South as well so can't speak to any good candidates there. Also am biased towards the Midwest.


I'd throw Omaha in that list as well. Three large to midsize universities within 1 hour, and there are few options outside of banks or insurance companies. The very few tech companies that I can think of in the area basically have their pick of graduates from the three universities. Anyone else has to look towards relocating if they don't want to work for one of the aforementioned banks or insurance companies.


Wilmington, NC[1].

Wilmington is a smaller city (population around 112,000) and doesn't have a great tech scene today - although it is growing. UNC-W has been doing a lot to support the local entrepreneurial scene and a thriving startup scene is emerging there. Even better, in Wilmington you have beaches all around: Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach right next door, and then you have Topsail Island to the north, and the Brunswick County Beaches (Long Beach, Yaupon Beach, Holden Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Sunset Beach) just to the south. Calabash is 45 minutes away if you want real, honest-to-god, genuine Calabash style seafood.

Anyway, back to Wilmington itself... it has the "college town" atmosphere since UNC-W is right smack in the heart of town, so there's a thriving nightlife, especially downtown around Front Street and the river area.

And if you do need to pop up to RTP for something, you're only ~2 hours away via direct shot up I-40. Likewise, if you need to go to Barstow, CA for some reason, you just jump on I-40 and drive 2,554 miles and you're there!

Disclaimer: I'm a little biased, as I was born in Wilmington, grew up near Holden Beach, about 30 miles from Wilmington, and attended UNC-W. So Wilmington is "home" to me in a sense. Yes, I left for the greener pastures of RTP, but that was almost 20 years ago. If I were that age again, living in Wilmington now, I might just stay.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilmington,_North_Carolina


Reno, NV is growing a lot. Primarily engineers go to IGT or Bally’s and work with slot machines, but the tech scene overall is growing. We have a great CS department at UNR and school is fairly cheap here. Taxes are low, but cost of housing is rising. Some of that is because of Tesla and Google. I think a lot of people are moving here from the bay because of housing costs.

Other nice aspects:

- There are tons of breweries, restaurants, and bars littered through downtown/midtown.

- We have a ton of festivals that shut down the streets downtown (Italian festival, chicken wing festival, hot august nights, brews and blues, and the rib cookoff).

- The Truckee River runs right through downtown and makes for some very pretty views.

- There’s a huge art scene and a ton of blank walls on buildings are being covered in murals.

- The weather is great all year round. Usually we hit 100s only for a week or so in the summer. It snows here but it melts in a day because we get so much sun.

- We’re within an hour’s drive of Tahoe, other lakes, and a dozen ski resorts.


I'd think just about anywhere in the Midwest with the possible exceptions of Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Madison, though the last two could potentially use a tad more diversity.


I was actually going to say Madison, WI. Its a great city, and leans heavy liberal. It is undersrerved by tech, but there are a lot of very smart people and a few amazing tech jobs. Diversity is huge, and a great local beer/restaurant scene too. Of course it's a college town, so a few negatives if you're a little past that demographic. However, very affordable living especially in the outskirts, even so far as Sun Prarier, Middleton, etc.


I love Madison. Visited a couple of times for interviews and I could easily see myself there if the opportunities weren't so limited.


I was thinking Champaign IL. That’s got some serious tech but not very well known. Amazing talent pool and research from U of I as well.


Albany, NY.

Lots of technical people from semiconductor, IBM refugees and the various companies supporting state government. Possible destination to woo people sick of NYC and Boston.


Southern Utah (Cedar City or St. George)... The area is growing, it's a skip and a beat to 'Silicon slopes' up north in Provo, and has decent weather. St. George you could save on utilities in the winter as you wouldn't need heat, but it gets hot in the summer. It's also 2 hours from vegas.

Cost of living is decent 4-5 bed homes run 200-300k. Rent is roughly 1200-1500 for a 3-4 bedroom townhome.


Colorado Springs. There's a handful of tech companies but they're actively trying to court more. We just got a Formstack office recently. There are a handful of grants available at the state level as well. The community is one of the most open and giving I have worked in. Let me know if you want an intro to people at the Economic Development Office or otherwise.


Champaign-Urbana, IL:

Top-notch university

Vibrant technology scene

Convenient to Chicago, Indianapolis, and St. Louis

Excellent cost-of-living

http://champaignil.gov/choose-champaign/

http://researchpark.illinois.edu/about

http://researchpark.illinois.edu/news/champaign-named-fastes...


Houston is going through big changes, the local economy is diversifying from oil into renewables and other sectors. There are quite a few maker spaces and meetups around here. There are lots of interesting startups, lots have to do with space, DoD, and energy, but there are other flavors too.


I also heard an interesting fact that per-capita there are more software engineers along the space coast in Florida than in SF.


Lots of defense contractors on both coasts in Florida.


Oklahoma City, OK / Tulsa, OK (yes it's a real city, no we don't all ride horses)

Decidedly not a "tech center", but we do have a very solid and thriving local tech community: https://www.techlahoma.org


For "embedded Linux systems and software defined radio systems", Florida's Space Coast (Brevard county) makes sense. If you can be competitive, you might be able to swipe lots of people from Harris. They are in Melbourne (Florida!) and Palm Bay.


Bloomington, Ind., would be helped by having your company there. Smaller than Indianapolis, but has a big upside: university, growing tech scene (co-work spaces, homegrown startups, Combine tech conference...), culturally more interesting as a whole than any other Indiana city.

And of course you're located not too far from major airports/large cities ... Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati, St Louis, Chicago


Kansas City.

Great place to live, but tech dominated by a few large employers. Hell, I have +20 years RF hardware design experience (VLF - mmWave) and know some GNU Radio.

https://github.com/madengr


Yes! Kansas City is great. Friendly people, cheap housing, and centrally located so it's not more than a 4 hour flight no matter where you're coming from in the continental US.

Hardware engineers are not too hard to find out there, Garmin, Allied Signal and Honeywell are among the substantial employers. It's also Sprint's HQ, not that that's much to go on these days. And KU is less than an hour out so you'll have a consistently refreshed talent pool to draw form.

KC could really use a stronger tech scene -- it's had a few false starts but nothing that's really stuck so far.


Philadelphia is a really great city to live and work in my opinion. Good city density but not overcrowded, walkable, affordable, good public transit, diverse. Public schools aren't the best currently so many families with young children do end up moving to the immediate suburbs where schools are some of the best. Lots of colleges (UPenn, Drexel, Temple) to recruit from as you expand.

I'm not sure Philly would rank highest on the "could be helped" aspect since it has a decent business sector already, but the tech (especially startup) scene is just getting started compared to the tons of healthcare and finance firms.


Detroit is such a great city. Housing is insanely cheap. Great for sports. Great lakes. Close to Canada so you can get cheap meds. You should consider it. They're really hungry for tech talent, and it's a swing state.


If I were to start a technical company, I'd strongly consider Huntsville, Alabama. There's a large workforce of engineers due to NASA, Redstone Arsenal, and even further back TVA. For something like SDR and embedded, its pluck full of that kind of talent.

Within a thirty mile radius of Huntsville, you can find a small town that would welcome such a firm. A lot of the Huntsville workforce already has meaningful commutes. Some of it just because of congestion. Some because they already live in the boondocks. That was always part of the attraction in the early days of NASA.


Queens, NYC, could use some love. Commutable from Manhattan and easily from Long Island (much less traffic by both ways), and the most diverse place in the world with great food.


Queens could also use better cross-town public transportation. It can take hours just to get to the other side of queens if you're taking public transportation. You can drive in Queens, but parking will either be hundreds of bucks a month or very time consuming.


The entire Mountain West. Bozeman has a pretty decent, and growing tech scene. Missoula is okay (shoutout Submittable and a few others).


This is interesting. I feel like they could play a role like Boise with Micron and the population boom. And support from the University as well.


Yeah, Boise is already exploding hence I didn't mention it (not familiar with the tech scene there, but I think it's one of the fastest growing cities in the country).


Salt Lake City and Denver still rule the roost for tech jobs in that region. Boise has seen better days with HP.


Pittsburgh, PA


It would be hard to call Pittsburgh underserved -- Google, Amazon, and Uber are all there.



Sacramento


Extremely underrated answer, and city. Sacramento IMO has the perfect balance of a nice summer (I love 80-90F temperature; yes I know it gets to 100+ on many days too) with good sunshine and not miserable fog, a little bit cold winter but not have to shovel snow (2 hours to Tahoe for snow), close enough to the SF Bay if you ever need to go there (an hour drive), good engineering talent (UC Davis graduates) and even a few existing tech/engineering companies to poach talent from (Intel etc.). House market is just beginning to get crazy but still very affordable especially if you compare it to SF Bay.


If you want to test SDR, you want to be within driving distance of somewhere with low density of people to reduce background RF noise. I once visited a very odd bespoke WiFi Antenna maker, he lived out the back of beyond so he could do RF measurement on his wire thingummyjigs.

So I'd be chosing a mid-west population centre with good roads into the cornfields


Tampa, FL


Agreed. Massive investment in the downtown area (there will be something like 15 cranes near downtown in the next year), great activities nearby, a low cost of living, and a (small) but growing tech scene.

Also home to one of the best rated airports in the US.


Buffalo is a undergoing a downtown Renaissance and has cheap real estate and a lot of technical talent being under utilized by banking Java applications. Come here you'll get great talent, great food, great culture, nys tax breaks, cheap real estate.




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