5 surprising cities to watch in 2017

Tech is growing where you may least expect

Mar 2, 2017, 6:31 PM

Where tech settles, local economies rise.

Real estate leasing and development have a stronger shot in cities with a strong tech footprint. What’s more: those hot spots have staying power. Cities that were most popular with tech companies five years ago are still growing today.

JLL’s latest Tech Office Outlook found that tech companies’ rate of growth was far outpacing the national average, at a rate of 63.4% versus 48.9%. And just 4.6% of tech companies were shrinking their real estate footprint versus 6.5% of the U.S. overall.

Bay Area behemoths San Francisco and Silicon Valley are still the preferred location for established tech companies. But startups and young companies are finding growth advantages in unexpected locales.

These burgeoning markets boast cheaper rents, greater space options, potential incentives, rising capital, and deep talent pools. Check them out.

Five growing tech cities to watch


Back in the 1970s, both Hewlett-Packard and Micron Technology dug deep roots in the Boise Valley. HP moved its printer division from Palo Alto to Boise and released its first laserjet printer shortly after. And Micron, founded in Boise, is now one of the largest computer memory manufacturers in the world.

Since then, HP and Micron employees have spun off dozens of their own startups, creating a network of talent and innovation in “Treasure Valley” led by semiconductor manufacturing, computer systems and software. Tech companies are now Idaho’s second-largest economic driver, and Idaho ranks among the top five for patents issued per capita.

Like Portland, Boise’s recreational outdoor culture and high quality of life are attracting firms who need a west coast location where costs are low and talent is high. Expanding tech companies have poured into the area, capitalizing on the community generated by the Valley’s two tech anchors and their satellite companies.


The healthcare industry has helped revive Cleveland’s former manufacturing roots now that blue-collar jobs have faded. Many startups are attracted to the low cost of living and burgeoning downtown area of this Ohio market, but the local medical tech sector is making the biggest splash.

There’s a lot of opportunity for tech to transform healthcare in this market, and we’ll likely see more innovation coming from firms with disruptive solutions. The new Global Center for Health Innovation is an innovation hub and home to 45 leading healthcare, health IT and medical innovation brands, including the Cleveland Clinic.

The east side of the city has been branded the Cleveland Health-Tech Corridor (HTC) to emphasize the area’s strong healthcare anchors, including universities, medical and research institutions, healthcare tech incubators and more. The city is actively marketing available capital, economic incentives and even revitalizing vacant real estate to bring more biotech, health IT, and medical tech brands into the area.


Austin has long been the golden child of the Texas tech scene, but Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) has slowly been cultivating a lively startup community. Its strong entrepreneurial spirit, no state income tax and a growing walkable community have generated a sizable tech presence in recent years. But that hasn’t always been the case.

In the 1950s, telecom companies Texas Instruments and Collins Radio (later Rockwell Collins) formed the first “Telecom Corridor” in Dallas, but the city was still widely recognized for its oil, gas, banking and real estate markets.

After losing tech talent and tenants to other second-tier tech hubs, the city and local stakeholders worked to reverse the flight to bigger markets. Area accelerators, universities, corporations and non-profits began engaging with the tech community to connect entrepreneurs and investors, elevate innovative ideas and entice talent to call Dallas home.

DFW has since diversified its industry with leaders in wireless communications, semiconductors, software and more. It’s consistently ranked as a top 10 technology patent generator in the United States, and its historic roots in defense will continue to drive aerospace innovation and demand for engineers.


Once on the brink of financial collapse, the Motor City is being reinvigorated by an eager tech community. Detroit isn’t in the clear just yet, but startups, investors and outside firms are attracted to the city’s resolve to bounce back. With affordable, creative space and a bootstrap culture, entrepreneurs are finding Detroit the perfect stage to grow fast and fail cheap.

Several tech giants are opening self-driving car research centers in Southeastern Michigan in a nod to the city’s automotive history. Likewise, TechStars Mobility is investing in up to a dozen mobility-related startups each year.

Detroit tech companies have access to accelerators, tech training and equity crowdfunding, not to mention the influx of funding from investors who are eager to be a part of Detroit’s rebirth. And now, on the heels of other fiber internet offers, local startup Rocker Fiber has built a Gigabit Internet fiber ring around downtown Detroit. It promises 100 times faster internet—an attractive perk for future innovators.


Another former manufacturing giant of the Midwest, Indianapolis has quietly become a competitive technology hub. Since 2010, the population in Indianapolis’ CBD has grown 92%, and tech job growth grew nearly 7% in 2015 alone.

Compared to 45 U.S. tech markets JLL recently analyzed, Indianapolis ranked #1 for lowest wage costs, office rental rates and housing. Business-to-business SaaS firms dominate the area, and software giants like Salesforce, Oracle and Paycom continue to attract college graduates with thousands of local jobs. In fact, Salesforce had one of the largest leasing deals of our 2016 Tech Outlook, with plans to occupy more than 220,000 square feet and hire 800 more employees. Salesforce’s presence is but one example of large firms’ confidence in the market and the staying power of Indianapolis tech.