2022 proves Missouri is the next U.S. tech hub

This is an opinion piece by Subash Alias and does not necessarily reflect the views of Silicon Prairie News. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way humans move through the world. From social distancing to widespread masking to telecommuting, most people’s lives look a lot different now than in February 2020. The American tech industry hasn’t…

Image courtesy Colton Sturgeon, unsplash.com
Image courtesy Colton Sturgeon, unsplash.com

This is an opinion piece by Subash Alias and does not necessarily reflect the views of Silicon Prairie News.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way humans move through the world. From social distancing to widespread masking to telecommuting, most people’s lives look a lot different now than in February 2020. The American tech industry hasn’t been immune to these shifts, either.

For decades, technology companies have huddled in densely populated metropolises such as Seattle, San Francisco, and New York City. However, the arrival of the coronavirus created conditions ripe for business expansion and realignment. In the wake of remote work, tech workers began seeking refuge in Midwestern states with more space and lower costs of living. And as workers fled the coasts, technology companies followed.

As a result, states that were once written off as “flyover states” have quickly become some of the U.S.’s top tech hubs. Take Missouri, for instance: St. Louis and Kansas City were among a handful of American cities that generated positive growth in year one of the pandemic. 

Subash Alias

Along with other trailblazing cities, they added a combined 14,000 tech jobs, and St. Louis alone saw its tech growth rate jump almost an entire percentage point in 2020. Unsurprisingly, the Brookings Institution recognized Kansas City and St. Louis as “rising stars” for growth in tech jobs before and during the pandemic. What’s more, they now rank as two of the best cities for women in the tech industry. 

Why Missouri Is the Next Tech Hub in the U.S.

When choosing expansion locations for businesses, there are so many opportunities for technology companies in Missouri. For one thing, tech workers are coming to Missouri in droves: California was the most departed state in 2020, but Missouri was in the top 10 for incoming residents.

Of course, there are numerous reasons someone might relocate, but it’s hard to ignore Missouri’s enticing 89.8 cost-of-living index. Additionally, homeownership is out of reach for many in coastal cities, where the price of real estate is astronomical. In contrast, Missouri ranks eighth in housing affordability, with a median home value of $168,000.

In terms of business benefits, the Show-Me State stacks up competitively. It ranks fifth in the overall cost of doing business and 10th in economic health. Missouri is also one of the most tax-friendly states in the country, with a 4% corporate income tax rate and significant tax exemption opportunities for data centers. It’s no wonder, then, that Meta decided to open an $800 million hyperscale data center in Kansas City.

Missouri is also investing in electric vehicles and battery-related projects. In 2021, CBI released a whitepaper indicating that using lead batteries for electric vehicle charging could be technically and commercially viable. As a result, Missouri issued an RFP to design, build, and install these prototypes across the state.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Business Location for a Technology Company

There’s a lot to be excited about regarding tech companies in Missouri. Here are three tips for business owners exploring opportunities in the Show-Me State:

  1. Don’t rush things.

When exploring any potential business expansion or relocation, it’s critical to evaluate all options. Humans are creatures of habit, which means they’re more inclined to stick to what they know or choose cities that already have good name recognition. But it’s important to consider communities such as Columbia, Wentzville, and Springfield, which are among the fastest-growing cities in Missouri.

Savvy business owners will do thorough research before selecting locations. That means exploring tax structures, real estate pricing, local rules and regulations, and the local talent pool for multiple locations.

  1. Follow the talent.

Go where the talent is — and where it’s being developed. Consider that the Midwest generates a quarter of America’s computer science graduates. Missouri ranks first for on-the-job training and third for apprenticeships, which means workers in the state are well-trained. 

The Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant, which provides financial aid to Missourians who pursue education in high-demand fields, is just one of the workforce development programs offered in the Show-Me State. And innovative programs like LaunchCode were born in Missouri and have since spread to other parts of the country.

  1. Contact state economic developers to assist with site selection.

Many states and regions have dedicated teams ready to help growing companies, but business owners should try to have their ducks in a row. For instance, they need to know what location factors their technology companies require to be successful. 

A company leader should go in with the mindset of entering into a partnership. Locating a business in a state is not an easy task. It’s important that both the company and the community find the right fit. After all, these are long-term decisions that will impact many for years to come. 

It’s easy for business owners to dismiss “flyover states” such as Missouri, but that would be a mistake. When it comes to emerging tech hubs in the U.S., Missouri deserves another look. Thankfully, technology companies are starting to give it the attention it merits.

Subash Alias is the CEO of Missouri Partnership, a public-private economic development organization available to assist businesses with their next expansion or relocation. Missouri Partnership is an expert resource to support companies’ site selection needs when the time is right to grow.

 

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