Watch out, San Francisco – Salt Lake City is fast becoming a hub for the tech industry, and people are starting to take note. This news may come as a shock, but Utah’s transformation into a top tech destination has already been underway for close to a decade. And while Salt Lake City, the state’s capital and the birthplace of Mormonism, has historically flown under the radar due to a widespread misconception that Utah is stuck in the past, this actually couldn’t be farther from the truth. In reality, SLC has been a hotbed of tech activity ever since the 1970s, when WordPerfect and Novell were created there, and it has only picked up the pace since then.
In the 1990s, SLC became the birthplace of Ancestry.com, Vivint Smart Home (previously known as APX Alarm Security Solutions) and Omniture. More recently, it has become such a desirable place to operate a tech company that it has become a popular satellite destination for some of the biggest players in the industry, including – but not limited to – Adobe, eBay, and Instructure, an educational software company that is currently valued at over half a billion dollars. And the city’s reputation and influence continues to grow exponentially with each day that passes. The United States Chamber of Commerce has named Utah the #1 state in the country for innovation and entrepreneurship, and Forbes has ranked it as the Best State for Business for the past two years in a row.
Today, over 5,000 tech companies are based in Utah, and their employees comprise nearly a tenth of the state’s workforce. So what is it about the Beehive State that is generating so much buzz? Here are the top 3 reasons why the metropolitan area surrounding SLC, which is appropriately nicknamed Silicon Slopes, has recently become so attractive to tech insiders.
- Utah’s government collaborates with the state’s private sector to facilitate economic growth. Unlike the state governments of other tech cities in this country, Utah’s government is not adrift in a sea of red tape when it comes to passing legislation that fosters the expansion of its private sector. The amicable partnership between public and private forces allows for a high volume of innovation with a low barrier to entry, and it makes SLC an appealing place to operate a business for tech professionals who loathe having to jump through bureaucratic hoops.
- The cost of living in SLC is dramatically lower than it is in other American cities. In a Powerpoint presentation by an organization for SLC’s tech community that shares its name with the neighborhood of Silicon Slopes, the large disparity between the housing costs in NYC, San Francisco, Chicago and SLC is demonstrated by comparing the different sized houses that could be purchased in each city for the same price of $400k. In NYC, that amount of money would allow you to buy a house that measures in at a claustrophobic 293 sq. ft. In San Francisco, the same amount would buy you a slightly larger house at 518 sq. ft., and in Chicago, it is enough to buy a significantly larger house of 1,120 sq. ft., nearly four times the size of the shoebox apartment in NYC. Startlingly, in SLC, that very same $400k would enable you to buy a genuinely spacious house of 2,898 sq. ft., almost ten full times the size of the apartment in New York. Such a low housing cost is indicative of a much lower cost of living in SLC than elsewhere in the country, and in a city where a little goes such a long way, much of a tech company’s usual concerns about money and financing simply does not apply.
- SLC is home to a thriving tech ecosystem. Perhaps it’s the fresh mountain air or the slower pace in SLC. Whatever the reason may be, people in SLC simply enjoy a better quality of life. While other cities that house strong tech communities are palpably cutthroat and fiercely competitive, the friendliness of the Midwest and the abundance of natural beauty in SLC combine to create an atmosphere that is far more conducive to partnerships and teamwork than to rivalry. This environment has made it possible for the burgeoning tech community in SLC to come together in a way that just isn’t possible in other cities, like NYC and San Francisco, where the rat race means everything, and as the saying goes, two heads are always better than one.
While it remains to be seen if SLC will ever fully outpace its sister cities in tech, it is safe to say that the tech scene in this city will not stop growing any time soon. In short, anyone who is looking to start a tech company would be wise to plant its roots in SLC, where so many opportunities truly are there for the taking.