Why smaller cities are poised to grow tech talent post-pandemic

Bay Area

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — As COVID-19 positivity rates continue to slow down in the Bay Area, some employees who have been working remotely are set to return to the office while others are contemplating relocating all together. 

Since the start of the pandemic, office workers have been forced to log in from home, while some in the tech industry packed their bags and left the region. 

“While Silicon Valley is going to lose some tech workers, there are people who moved during the pandemic as some are not going to come back,” said Patrick McKenna, founder of One America Works. 

“Most are going to return.”

As a result of the pandemic, space and affordability has been a top priority for many employees. 

According to One America Works, 3 in 10 tech works anticipate living in a different place as they did before the pandemic. 

Courtesy: One America Works

“However there’s a net negative of about 4 or 5% of that tech workforce that isn’t going to return and that’s probably not surprising to anyone but it’s a small relative amount,” says McKenna. 

“But what is happening with that 4-5%, they’re going to make a really big impact on other cities.”

An April 2021 representative survey of 1,000 tech workers nationwide, ages 50 and under, currently employed for wages in the high tech sectors of data, software, consumer technology or goods, scientific research, hardware or robotics, found that 47% of tech workers moved during the pandemic. 

The survey also found that a high percentage of tech workers don’t anticipate living in the same location post-pandemic, among the tech workers who lived in major city centers before 2020, 1 in 5 anticipate living outside of a major city. 

“What we call smaller kind of mid-size cities across the county, well those smaller mid-size cities are going to get a 20% lift in their tech workforce,” says McKenna. 

Whether moving had to due to high taxes, political turmoil, rising crime rates or unprecedented wildfires, many of California’s tech workforce found refuge elsewhere. 

Neighbor, a Lehi, Utah-based startup, which operates as a self-storage marketplace, tells KRON4 News there has been a mind shift among employees across the nation on where they prefer to live, and as a result some are moving out of big-city tech hubs like the Bay Area/Silicon Valley. 

“I think you’re just seeing people willing to do that in the earlier stage of their careers now, which is causing a lot of this drift from markets like New York, San Francisco to the middle markets,” says Joseph Woodbury, Neighbor CEO. 

“People are like I always wanted to live in Utah where I can be really close to nature and close to the national parks and buy a home with a yard and be in a place where the public schools are just as good as the private schools.”

The self-storage startup is capitalizing on this new change in mindset. 

Woodbury says the company has tailored its recruiting strategy to hire the best available tech talent and relocate them to their office in Utah. 

“Over 30% of our full-time hires over the last year have come from out of state.”

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