Tech companies across the country are increasingly setting up shop in urban areas, driven by the need to hire younger workers who aren’t about to give up their city lifestyles. At the same time, they have to consider older professionals who don’t want the hassles of a longer commute.
The move is particularly pronounced in Boston, home to a large community of colleges as well as a vibrant tech industry. You can see it in the numbers: Last year suburban Burlington, Lexington and Waltham accounted for 3 percent of open software engineering jobs, says the Boston Globe. Boston and Cambridge together listed 63 percent.
While locating in suburbia is cheaper, the kind of people companies want to hire—younger tech professionals looking for their first or second job–aren’t interested in the commute. “I lower my rent costs but I don’t get top people,” said Jim Dougherty, co-founder of the startup Madket Inc., located in Cambridge.
Venture capital firms are part of the trend, too, with many of them moving from office parks into Boston’s innovation district. That adds a lure for startups, who want to be as close as they can be to VCs, any which way they can. “For companies that really have ambitions to become significant companies, it’s a pretty clear choice that they have to be located in one of these two areas [Boston or Cambridge],” said Dave Barrett, Managing Partner with the venture firm Polaris Partners, which recently moved to offices on the Boston waterfront.
Still, many businesses find good reasons to stay closer to Route 128. The corridor remains home to the likes of EMC and Nuance Communications, for one thing. For another, a lot of older tech workers live in the suburbs and don’t want to trek into the city every day. Duncan Lennox, CEO of the mobile software company Qstream, worried that he’d lose some of his existing staff if he moved from his Burlington location. “They are all folks like me who have kids and already want to be out in the suburbs,” he said.
The bigger companies aren’t ignoring all this. Some are opening satellite offices in Boston and Cambridge to attract city-centric candidates. “There’s a lot of competition for smart graduates,” Matt Revis, Vice President of Mobile Devices at Nuance, told the Globe. The company, he said, opened an “Innovation Center” in Cambridge because it “wanted to make sure that we had one of the coolest offices for people coming into tech.” The move has worked. Nuance has hired a number of people who wouldn’t have come on board if they had to commute to its facility in Burlington.
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