Smaller Cities Becoming Hotbeds for High-Tech Growth
By utilizing the strengths of existing business as well as government and academia, smaller cities are becoming hotbeds for the biotech, IT, renewable energy technologies, aerospace/defense, digital media, and a host of other high-tech endeavors.
Monique Wassenaar Silverio (November 2010)
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Nearly 2.7 million people reside in the region, making it the 20th-largest U.S. metro area. With the region's population expected to increase by more than 8 percent by 2015, Greater Baltimore is well situated to advance its already vibrant technical community.
According to Vince Buscemi, vice president of operations for Mindgrub Technologies (a technology innovation agency created in 2002 specializing in mobile application development, social media integration, and web development), "We chose the Baltimore area because it is a centralized location that allows us to reach our client base in Washington, D.C.; Virginia; Baltimore; Philadelphia; and New York City with ease. Baltimore is also creating a support system to better incubate its technology initiatives, and we're proud to be a part of the bigger picture."
Additionally, according to Businessweek and Forbes, Greater Baltimore ranks as one of the best U.S. markets for riding out the recession. Forbes also ranked Baltimore as one of the best cities for job growth in 2009. These favorable rankings are due in large part to Greater Baltimore's successful transition over the past decade from an industrial to a knowledge-based economy. Since 2000, the region has experienced the highest rate of growth in high-wage industries, including professional, scientific, and technical services, up 25.3 percent from 2000; education, up 22.6 percent; and healthcare, up 19.6 percent.
Pivotal to this success are the Greater Baltimore area's 10 nationally recognized research institutions, including Johns Hopkins University, which ranks number-one in R&D expenditures.
Most emerging hot-tech cities have a niche, and Huntsville's reputation as the "Rocket City" highlights its deep roots in the defense and aerospace industry. More than 300 defense and aerospace engineering and technology companies are located here, and more than 50 percent of the jobs in Huntsville/Madison County are related to those industries.
"Huntsville has a great combination of entrepreneurial spirit and history of technical innovation coupled with business-savvy community leaders. This makes it a great place to grow a business," says Paul Gierow, president of GATR Technologies in Huntsville. The company, which was founded in Huntsville in 2004, develops inflatable satellite communication antennas and systems that can be quickly deployed for high-bandwidth communications in remote, hard-to-reach areas.
Named the "The New Federal City" by Government Executive magazine, with some 32,550 federal jobs based in Huntsville, the region is home to the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal. With a population of more than 400,000, Huntsville plays a key role in the U.S. Army's technology development programs.
However, Huntsville's high-tech growth is not limited to defense and aerospace. According to TechAmerica, Huntsville has one of the highest concentrations of high-tech workers in the nation - across all disciplines. Since 2004, more than 18,440 jobs from expanding companies have been created, with more than $1.5 billion in capital investment. The Huntsville region boasts nine colleges and universities, including UA-Huntsville, a national research university.
Cummings Research Park (CRP), the nation's second-largest R&D park, is located outside Redstone Arsenal and employs more than 25,000 people. The park, founded in 1962, encompasses 3,843 acres and includes more than 11.5 million square feet of office space. A recent growth engine to the CRP has been the expansion of the biotech industry with the $130 million, 270,000-square-foot Hudson-Alpha Institute. The institute, which is 100 percent occupied, includes 12 biotech companies and a nonprofit research center.
Mickey Mouse may wield incredible influence in Disney World, but high-tech is making its mark on this booming area, as well. In fact, it may come as a surprise that the second-largest industry in Orlando is technology. The region boasts a $13.4 billion tech industry that today employs nearly 53,000 people.