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Is Denver The Next High-Tech Center? (newyorker.com) 151

An anonymous reader write: "The spread of the tech industry outside Silicon Valley has helped make Denver the fastest-growing large city in the U.S.," reports the New Yorker, saying it's now growing faster than Austin and Seattle, becoming one of America's 20 most populous cities. Cost-conscious investors and tech executives now are opening offices in cheaper "secondary cities" outside of Silicon Valley, like Salt Lake City, and the good universities near Denver mean a well-educated workforce, coupled with a low cost of living.

"Though the city isn't the headquarters for any big tech companies -- like Dell in the Austin area or Microsoft and Amazon in Seattle -- several of them, including IBM and Oracle, have offices here. The presence of those offices, and of the universities, has also helped create a vibrant startup scene: people get educated here or come here for jobs, and then they graduate or leave those jobs and become entrepreneurs." Last year venture capitalists invested $800 million in Demver's tech, energy, food, and marijuana companies, and in 2014 Oracle paid over a billion dollars to acquire Denver-based Datalogix.

Anyone else live in a burgeoning "secondary" tech city? Scott McNealy said he co-founded his data-analysis startup in Denver because in California "The prices of everything have skyrocketed. The regulations. The pension deficit. The traffic. It's just not a fun place to go start."
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Is Denver The Next High-Tech Center?

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  • After the steel mills closed down they reinvented the city around banking, healthcare, and high tech. They pulled it off too, it's a nice city with a strong economy now.
  • In a rare exception to Betteridge's Law of Headlines... Yes.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No exception here. No sir. Denver is just an omelette with ham, and Colorado is populated only by Cowboys and rattlesnakes. Better just to avoid it altogether.

      • Colorado is an interesting state, a weird amalgamation of red and blue that seems to do alright for itself. You might think its just a case of city and country being two opposites, but there are a lot of small towns there that kicked out Comcast in favor of municipal internet and there are plenty of weed lovers in the state that love their guns just as much.

        I would think that Boulder would make a better high tech center, but Denver isn't a bad city either.
        • Boulder is terrific for little start-ups, and is full of them. When you get to the point where you want several acres to build a campus, no way. At some point, growing businesses have to move out of Boulder.
  • North Dakota? They have lots of space, cheap housing now that the oil workers have moved out, and it's cold enough that cooling your data center involves opening windows. For that matter, why stop there? Canada is probably pretty good.
    • For that matter, why stop there? Canada is probably pretty good.

      Just be sure to stop before you get to the North Pole. The pack ice won't support office buildings for much longer - global warming, you know...

  • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Sunday May 29, 2016 @09:57AM (#52205323)

    I spent a lot of time in SLC last year. Yes there is booming high tech corridor all along the Wasatch front. Yes there is lots of outdoor activities to do within a very short distance Yes the weather isn't half bad with sunshine almost all of the year (suck on that Pittsburgh!). Places like Pluralsight have their headquarters there.

    The downsides being that they are starting to have large issues with traffic (the tech corridor is literally a 40 mile linear expanse and everyone has to travel along the same one freeway). The political and religious environment can be constrictive compared to a lot of other states EG any alcohol over 3.5% can only be bought in state run shops that have very restrictive hours. The Mormon church has a huge influence on politics behind the scenes. But that is being offset by the influx of outsiders EG as indicated by the consumption of alcohol doubling in the last 10 years, and Salt Lake City itself just (last year) elected an openly gay mayor.

    Probably what was the most disturbing for me was that I have never seen more homeless people in my life at one time. This could be because SLC is a "Sanctuary city", but I am not convinced of that.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I work in tech in the Salt Lake City area and the tech industry has been booming here for years, but lately it has grown even more so. Adobe, eBay, IMFlash, Overstock.com, and many other firms of varying sizes have either moved ops here or started here. Some new comers make a big deal of the LDS church influence in life in Utah and this because many people are LDS and live their religion, that is where the influence lies. Plus they make great neighbors. Being a native Californian it took some getting used t

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Shit... I knew Colorado had THC... but Utah has got LDS???

      • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

        Some new comers make a big deal of the LDS church influence in life in Utah and this because many people are LDS and live their religion, that is where the influence lies.

        And yet I spoke to people who are LDS and moved from other states who complained about the LDS born and raised in UT.

        I'm not saying that in general LDS aren't nice and friendly people face to face, but the LDS church (as practiced in UT) has some very negative practices.

        • You have to remember that within Utah, we complain about the LDS folk in Provo being the worst while us the OTHER Utahns are much better. But since I live in Utah Valley, you have the LDS outside of my valley complaining about how I am just the WORST. So, be sure to take what the 'outside' utahns say with a grain of salt (that is not to say that they don't have merit! I have not discussed that point at all).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Aside: When I went to Reykjavik all the most annoying tourists were from Denver.

    I went on a meandering road trip last summer. I really liked Denver, but once I started looking at real estate and rent prices it lost the appeal. I talked to a lot of locals who are having to move farther out and take on roommates.

    And the thing is, after driving through most of the country, it's all the same. Same stores, same microbreweries, same suburbs. I wanted to find a place to get excited about but it's all the same with

  • Sort Of (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Necron69 ( 35644 ) <jscott.farrow@gm ... l.com minus poet> on Sunday May 29, 2016 @10:03AM (#52205357)

    I don't know that it is high tech jobs, or legal pot, but odd things are definitely happening in Denver. We just refinanced our house after less than two years, and the value shot up by almost $100k. Thankfully we bought when we did, but I don't know how my kids will afford to live here in the future. The townhomes they are building a block away will go from $350-$650k! Denver proper is mostly landlocked so prices will continue to rise.

    Traffic is awful and getting worse. Getting up to the mountains to play on the weekend has become a real chore. We leave for skiing at 5:30am to beat the traffic up I70. Driving in or out of the city during rush hour is completely awful.

    The bad traffic has brought the return of toll roads on most of the regional highways that weren't already tolled. Even the interstates have or are getting toll/express lanes now. Be prepared to pay up for your commute.

    One bright spot - after decades of wrangling, our light rail network is finally being expanded out to serve much more of the metro area. Even the cheaper suburbs will have rail access to downtown in a couple of years. (Not Boulder, they hate you, sorry).

    Please bring your hipster programmer selves here so I can continue to have someone local to work for and keep feeding my 401k until retirement. Then I can sell my house for a small fortune and move out of this crazy town.

    Yours Truly, Generation X.

  • Is becoming California 2.0- especially Colorado.
  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Sunday May 29, 2016 @10:34AM (#52205447) Homepage

    When people start flooding into your state from California, it sounds great, right? They're coming for the jobs, the good life you have, the environment that allows businesses to exist without choking the life out of them. But what happens next?

    They start complaining that things aren't like they were in California. And then they start making changes. Like all new arrivals, they don't give a shit about you've been doing things, they're going to be doing it their way from now on. And that means the California way. It's what they were fleeing in the first place, but they plan to re-implement it in your home. These people vote, too. Once they outnumber your city's people, what are you going to do?

    This is what happened to my beloved Austin. When I left, I think the population was booming over 500,000 and it was already terrible. Today? Something like 1.2 million. Sad, my city will never be the place it was when I lived there.

  • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Sunday May 29, 2016 @10:35AM (#52205451)
    ... before the Republicans gutted the University system and added some good ol' fashioned legalized discrimination. Yee haw!!
  • One of the things that transformed Silicon Valley into a high tech center was (hard to believe now) cheap land to put office parks up in. By the time that changed, the absurd cost of office space and housing was offset by economies of scale.

    From a planning standpoint Denver feels like a lot like San Jose -- plenty of sprawl. In fact in some ways it's better -- not being hemmed in by mountains, it's got unlimited room for a tech region to grow eastward. It's got the Colorado School of Mines, which is a wel

  • by John.Banister ( 1291556 ) * on Sunday May 29, 2016 @10:39AM (#52205477) Homepage
    Have you learned nothing from this technology? Centers are obsolete. It'll be a network.
    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      Have you learned nothing from this technology? Centers are obsolete. It'll be a network.

      Except that while technology may change, human nature remains the same.

      The "Everything is distributed" trend discounts the value of random face to face encounters in the office.

  • What kind of infrastructure would you need that makes a "center of high tech industry" sensible? You have no raw materials that you have to send there, so connections to airports, seaports or rail connection is pointless. And as far as roads are concerned, anything that gets your workers to and from you will do. Power is essential, as is internet connectivity. Aside of that you need rather little in terms of logistics and resources.

    Why you'd want to move to a "center" again as a company and drive real estat

    • Re:Why a "center"? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Nkwe ( 604125 ) on Sunday May 29, 2016 @11:34AM (#52205719)

      What kind of infrastructure would you need that makes a "center of high tech industry" sensible?

      Employees at other companies to poach?

      • by Pulzar ( 81031 )

        Employees at other companies to poach?

        Employees in general. It doesn't have to be poaching, people are more likely to move to a place that has a whole bunch of options for their industry.

        • And why'd I want to put myself where the competition is?

          Of course it depends what you're after. Generally, though, it mostly depends on what you offer and what you expect. For example, the security branch of the corporation I work for has been put into some godforsaken backwater area of our country, which does make hiring admittedly a bit harder, but then again you get a lot more bang out of your buck out here. I live in a huge 1000 ft apartment for about 600 bucks, my total living expenses are below 1500 a

      • Employees at other companies to poach?

        And laws that protect the right of those employees to change jobs.

  • It already is. Has been for a little while now.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Sunday May 29, 2016 @10:56AM (#52205539)

    I think a lot of companies are realizing they don't really have to be in San Francisco or Silicon Valley anymore. When an area's cost of living gets too high, any company will try to move non-essential operations somewhere else. I live in metro NYC, so this is a really common thing here too. The only industries that are really rooted in New York City anymore are the publishers, fashion, entertainment to some extent and US investment banks. Even those companies have moved their back offices to Iowa, or Atlanta, or even India. Denver's close enough to California for the SV crowd to travel there quickly and still exert some control.

    It kind of sucks because if you're not an executive of one of these companies, you're sometimes relegated to a secondary city and the primary city's economy is disproportionately wealthy. No one would stick a call center in the middle of Silicon Valley for example, but you need a mix of jobs and incomes to make a healthy economy and not create a reality distortion bubble. I'm not surprised that secondary citiies' popularity is increasing -- no one thinks the California real estate situation is reasonable. Even here in NY, the second most insane real estate market in the US, it looks ridiculous. Who would pay $1 million or more for a tiny house in a town requiring a 2 hour commiute to work?

    The other thing I've noticed living in a primary city is that it's always been en vogue for people and businesses complaining about the high taxes to move to a low or no income tax state. in the 90s it was Atlanta, the 2000s it was North Carolina, and the 2010s seem to be Florida and Texas for where most NY "tax expats" move. Most people I've talked to with families who've taken the deal love living in a huge house and paying almost nothing in taxes, but complain bitterly about the lack of quality schools and low levels of government service. It's funny how quality schools and tax rates correlate...in some states you really do get what you paid for.

  • High taxes, business-strangling regulations, insane housing prices driven by land-use laws that strangle supply [battleswarmblog.com], and the future is further imperiled by unsustainable public pension debt [pensiontsunami.com] and rising labor costs due to the minimum wage hike.

    So I'm sure Denver is benefiting from the exodus of high tech jobs, just like Austin, Durham, DFW, etc.

    • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Sunday May 29, 2016 @11:27AM (#52205683)

      High taxes, business-strangling regulations, insane housing prices driven by land-use laws that strangle supply [battleswarmblog.com], and the future is further imperiled by unsustainable public pension debt [pensiontsunami.com] and rising labor costs due to the minimum wage hike.

      Meh... I've been hearing that for years. Most of these criticisms come from the fact that California is a solid blue state with 54 electoral votes go to Hillary. If California was a solid red state with 54 electoral votes going to Trump, everyone in the right-wing echo chamber would be singing a different tune.

  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Sunday May 29, 2016 @11:04AM (#52205581)

    Anyone else live in a burgeoning "secondary" tech city?

    San Jose. They're tearing down two-story buildings to put up four-story buildings and provide more space. Especially since Apple is developing 4.15 million square feet over the next 15 years in North San Jose.

    http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Apple-gets-green-light-for-massive-San-Jose-6786465.php [sfgate.com]

  • Usually we think of places like Detroit or Flint as victims of business growth. But apparently the troubles centering around San Francisco are proof that any kind of business or industrial growth ruins the area in which it occurs. Miami Florida is another great example. The more business Miami attracted the worse it became as a place to live. Business attracts potential employees and cities or regions swell. It never seems to end well.
  • by brian.stinar ( 1104135 ) on Sunday May 29, 2016 @11:30AM (#52205697) Homepage

    I think the "low cost of living" is relative to San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. The author of this article specifically left San Francisco, which seems to me to be the absolute worst in terms of cost of living.

    My cousin lives in Denver. He's been trying to buy a condo. He's been noticing that things go for asking price, or above. He walked away from a condo deal, at asking, because of a totally messed up Home Owner's Association. He'll have to keep looking, but he's feeling a lot of pressure to move quickly due to increasing prices.

    I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I bought some apartments while in graduate school, working as an intern. Granted, the bank that gave me a loan was shut down for giving too many irresponsible people loans [fdic.gov], but I haven't had any problems. My point is, that in a place like Albuquerque, with a very good university and national labs close by, the cost of living is insanely low compared to basically anyplace except rural America, or post-apocalyptic wastelands like Detroit. People that work relatively low-skilled jobs (waiters, waitresses) can buy houses and start families. The lack of existing infrastructure is a HUGE opportunity for people building companies.

    • by dave562 ( 969951 )

      I think the "low cost of living" is relative to San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. The author of this article specifically left San Francisco, which seems to me to be the absolute worst in terms of cost of living.

      People from San Francisco are 'screwing up' property markets all over the country. I am in the process of relocating my family to the Portland, Oregon area. The environment is similar to what you described with your cousin. Everything is going for over asking price. There are usually hal

    • yea the housing market here has gone insane. I live in denver and got extremely lucky buying my house at the very bottom of the crash, if I had to buy this today there is no way I could afford it as its apparently worth almost double which I cannot fathom. We recently had a friend staying with us a couple months because he had moved away and was trying to move back to denver and buy a condo. After 3 months he realized there was no way he could buy a place since as you said, every place was going for 5k+ o

  • by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Sunday May 29, 2016 @11:33AM (#52205709) Homepage
    There's 2 things always required to become a 'tech hub', neither of which Denver has. First is money - and the article points out that Denver has no corporate HQ's. Second, is a world class education community that feeds technology and is benefactored by the first requirement (money) . Unless there's a tech school University of Denver that's on the same caliber as CIT or UW, this is just smoke
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 29, 2016 @12:50PM (#52206053)

      University of Colorado (~40 miles) and Colorado State University (~65 miles) have solid engineering and computer science programs. There's also a good concentration of GIS and environmental companies due to the various relevant programs at both universities. Salaries are far lower than in traditional tech hubs, however.

    • by cdwiegand ( 2267 )

      https://www.mines.edu/ [mines.edu] - Colorado School of Mines. CU Boulder is also a top notch school.

      • There's a reason that HP, Intel, AMD and Broadcom/Avago all have sizeable operations in Fort Collins: Colorado State University.
  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Sunday May 29, 2016 @11:51AM (#52205789)

    In the Bay Area, the anti-technology left hates geeks. They will smash up your company pool bus and prevent your people from finding housing.

    In Denver, these people are legally stoned and will stay out of your way.

  • by dave562 ( 969951 ) on Sunday May 29, 2016 @12:23PM (#52205909) Journal

    The company I work for has a small office (~35 people) in Denver. The entire office is dedicated to data analytics and does a lot of work with massive structured and unstructured data sets.

    The company also has a smaller office in Boulder, but from what I understand that office is focused primarily on the energy market.

  • Behind the times (Score:4, Informative)

    by michael_cain ( 66650 ) on Sunday May 29, 2016 @12:27PM (#52205933) Journal
    The OP's observation is really behind the times.

    I moved to the Denver area 28+ years ago. Since I got here, the state's population has gone from 3.3M to 5.5M, almost all in the Front Range urban corridor. Much of that growth has been driven by tech, it's just been quiet. The state is consistently in the top several for VC money spent. There's also a long history of Colorado companies reaching a certain size and then being acquired by the giant coastal firms.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ASU Research is top notch. We have 8 months of beautiful weather (albeit 4 months of blistering hot). Taxes are cheap. 4 hours from Vegas. 5 hours from the beaches in San Diego/Los Angeles. 4 Hours from the beaches in Rocky Point, Mexico. You can still buy a house with a pool for about $100K. Roads are mostly brand new and clean. 4 professional sports teams with a pretty lively fan base (Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Suns, and Coyotes). Sure, we don't have the hipster culture like Austin or San Francisc

  • Yeah well it's all fun and games until they win the civil war and declare themselves the capital. Next thing you know they will be breaking us into districts and making our teenagers fight to the death in tournaments that are just rip-offs of Battle Royale. I see what you are doing over there Denver!

  • Denver and Boulder each have have a Startup Week, mostly free seminars to encourage techies and businessmen to talk to each other. I've learned there are native VCs, incubators, coding academies, etc. plus there are major branches of all the major SV companies. Google is building a new 2000 person campus in Boulder. One of the more interesting theme sections this months Boulder Startup Week was you guessed it, the cannabis industry. With over a thousand licensesd businesses there is a need for tech support
  • Denver is closed, thanks for inquiring. We'll let you know the next time there is an opening.

  • I can definitely see some people wanting to move to Colorado for the mountains/outdoors and the legal pot.

    I wonder, though, if the legal pot part of it would inhibit established corporations from adding or expanding operations in Colorado. I'm sure a lot of them have the usual corporate employee conduct section that prohibits drug use and some may have the whole company wide drug testing regime.

    Would these kinds of companies not want to open/expand offices in Colorado because it creates conflicts in their d

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