When people think of tech hubs or havens for business startups, images of Silicon Valley or Los Angeles probably come to mind. Add St. Louis, Missouri, to that list. According to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Technology 2030 Report, the tech industry in the Show-Me State is on the rise, and it seems that trend will continue in the coming years. But don’t just take their word for it. Forbes even rated St. Louis #2 in its 2019 list of the Top 10 Rising Cities for Startups.
People have long associated St. Louis with baseball and the Gateway Arch, so the growing tech and business startup scene may come as a surprise to many. Just how has this distinctly Midwestern city managed to attract so much talent and business interest, when people in these industries have traditionally flocked to the coasts?
There’s a lot of factors at play that help St. Louis attract this sort of growth. First and foremost, there’s no denying that the cost of living in the Heartland of the U.S. is significantly lower than in areas traditionally considered tech hubs, like Silicon Valley. According to Rentcafe, the average rent in St. Louis is $941. The average monthly rent in Mountain View, California? $3352.
General business costs are also significantly lower in the Midwest. According to Forbes, the average cost of doing business in St. Louis is 8% below the national average. Throw in all the other higher cost-of-living expenses of Silicon Valley, and you can see why more affordable areas like St. Louis would start drawing in more talent and business.
However, it’s not just overall lower costs of living and operating a business that make a centralized location like St. Louis a prime spot for tech and business growth. The climate of the city and surrounding region itself helps fledgling businesses get what they need to thrive. Take T-REX, for instance. This non-profit is all about helping entrepreneurs get the tools they need to succeed. From offering advice, conferences, low-rent spaces, and more, T-REX is the resource organization “dedicated to strengthening the economic vitality of St. Louis, one startup at a time.” This community-driven focus can be a real boon for startups and might be lacking in other larger metropolitan areas, but not in The Gateway to the West.
There’s also plenty of established companies here that are continuing to do well and attract more talent to the area. Take Boeing, for example, which just last year won two contracts with the U.S. government. One is for $805.3 million for creating drones for the Navy. The other contract is for $9.2 billion for crafting a new training jet for the Air Force. Taken together, these contracts will support thousands of jobs in the region for years to come.
Boeing isn’t the only significant presence in the area, though. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has also been in the region for decades, and is now expanding that presence. The hope is to capitalize on the region’s growth and attract fresh talent to the agency. As geospatial technology continues to evolve and enter pop culture through games like Pokémon Go, it’s become more important than ever for companies to capitalize on this sector’s increasing popularity and growth by snatching up new talent as soon as possible. With NGA and geospatial tech giants like Esri focusing their attention on St. Louis, this specific sector of the tech industry can only be expected to grow here for the foreseeable future.
So, the next time someone asks you about the tech scene, you know there’s more to see than just Silicon Valley. When it comes to breaking into the tech industry or starting up a new business, there may be no better place to go than The Lou.