Michael Hollman says he has a job offer from Amazon.com and just interviewed at Google. But he might ditch them both for Lincoln, Nebraska.
Hudl, a startup that provides video tools for coaches and athletes, is offering the University of Nebraska senior a chance to become a hometown hero. It’s raised more than $72 million and boasts a location that’s ridiculously more affordable than the pricey precincts that neighbor Amazon headquarters.
“Compared to Seattle, here is dirt-cheap awesome,” said Hollman, an intern for Hudl, which features perks for employees that include free sports tickets (with travel stipends), catered lunches and an “unlimited vacation” policy. “In my mind, working at Amazon is on par with working here at Hudl.”
High prices on the West Coast are making it easier for the fresh crop of computer-science graduates and other techies to choose heartland hubs that are growing, in part, because putting down roots there doesn’t require a small fortune. The influx of tech money has already jacked up the cost of living in Seattle and Northern California, but while Silicon Valley remains the undisputed leader, startups are spreading dollars and a coastal ethos to unlikely destinations such as Provo, Utah, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the Midwest’s “Silicon Prairie.”
Hudl tech workers based in Lincoln earn an average of $67,000 a year, about 60 percent more than the city’s average wage. The average tech salary in Seattle last year was $99,423, according to research firm Dice. But the median home price in Seattle is $385,300 and in Lincoln it’s $158,700, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The tech echo-boom is already starting to hipsterize Nebraska’s capital city. The downtown now has three sushi restaurants, a speakeasy serving $12 cocktails and dozens of startups filling once-abandoned warehouses. New workers are pushing up real estate values. Home prices are up almost 14 percent since 2012 and apartment rents have risen 38 percent.
“The sheer scale of the tech boom is really straining the primary hubs and ratcheting up the pressure to move outwards,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. “It’s having cascading real estate effects.”
While San Francisco and Seattle still rule the industry -- and remain totally cool places to live and work -- companies are increasingly moving operations where talent is cheaper and easier to retain. The fastest-growing states for technology jobs in the first half of the year were Minnesota, Utah, Nebraska and Michigan, according to a Dice.com analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. New York was seventh and California ranked 10th.