The 7 Top Tech Hubs Among America’s Small College Towns

By    April 16, 2014

college graduation

In the HBO comedy “Silicon Valley,” one of the characters refers to the famed tech hub as “the cradle of innovation.” To be sure, Silicon Valley has given us the home computer, the iPhone and many other tech innovations.

Yet even some small college towns in the U.S. can lay claim to being cradles of innovation, although on a much smaller scale than Silicon Valley. Without a doubt, the built-in brainpower and resources of a university can be a catalyst for tech startups in small college towns. Not every college town graduates to the level of a mini-Silicon Valley, though.

“College towns are no longer just sleepy hamlets where learning, sports, conversation and partying prevail,” social and economic theorist Richard Florida wrote in 2011 on The Atlantic Cities website. “The rise of the idea-driven, human capital-powered knowledge economy has transformed many of them into economic powerhouses.”

So, which small college towns in the U.S. make the grade as standout tech hubs?

How We Produced This List
Before we answer that question, let’s look at how we compiled the list. We relied primarily on rankings of tech hubs in a 2013 report by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City, MO-based nonprofit that promotes entrepreneurship. We also considered rankings of tech hubs by Techie.com, along with other economic accolades, population trends and livability factors.

We examined only those college towns with a population of less than 150,000. We used the population figure for the core town, not the entire metro area. In the case of Champaign-Urbana, IL, we combined the population of the two towns. To make our list, a college town had to be home to a university with an enrollment of at least 10,000.

Why is SpareFoot publishing this list? SpareFoot helps people find storage units. One of the main reasons that people seek storage is because they’re moving. Thus, we often publish lists that highlight places where people might want to move, such as the seven college towns on this list.

Here, in alphabetical order, is SpareFoot’s list of the Seven Top Tech Hubs Among America’s Small College Towns. Would you want to live and work in one of these places?

Ames, IA

ames-iowa

City population: 60,634 (2012)
Major school: Iowa State University
University enrollment: 33,241 (fall 2013)
Ranked No. 8: High-tech startup density in small metro areas (2010)
Ranked No. 6: Largest increase in high-tech startup density in small metro areas (1990-2010)
Ranked No. 4: Density of digital technology startups in small metro areas (2010)
Ranked No. 2: 20 best college towns in America (2013-14)

Ann Arbor, MI

ann arbor

City population: 116,121
Major school: University of Michigan
University enrollment: 43,710 (fall 2013)
Ranked No. 6: High-tech startup density among small to midsize metro areas (2010)
Ranked No. 8: Density of digital technology startups among small to midsize metro areas (1990-2010)
Ranked No. 2: Largest increase in density of digital technology startups among small to midsize metro areas (1990-2010)
Ranked No. 2: America’s 20 most economically vibrant college towns (2011)
Ranked No. 2: America’s 10 best college towns (2013)

Champaign-Urbana, IL

champaign-urbana

City population: 124,098 (combined headcount for 2012)
Major school: University of Illinois
University enrollment: 43,398 (fall 2013)
Ranked No. 15: High-tech startup density among small metro areas (2010)
Ranked No. 8: Largest increase in high-tech startup density among small metro areas (2010)
Ranked No. 5: Density of digital technology startups among small metro areas (2010)
Ranked No. 3: Largest increase in density of digital technology startups among small metro areas (1990-2010)
Named: One of 10 most promising tech hubs by Techie.com (2014)
Named: Champaign’s EnterpriseWorks one of three college-town business incubators to watch (2013)
Ranked No. 15: America’s 20 fastest-growing college towns (2000-10)
Ranked No. 6: 20 best college towns in America (2013-14)

Corvallis, OR 

Corvallis

City population: 54,998 (2012)
Major school: Oregon State University
University enrollment: 27,925 (fall 2013)
Ranked No. 10 (tie): High-tech startup density among all metro areas (2010)
Ranked No. 1: High-tech startup density among small metro areas (2010)
Ranked No. 3: Largest increase in high-tech startup density among small metro areas (1990-2010)
Ranked No. 2: Density of digital technology startups among small metro areas (2010)
Ranked No. 3: Largest increase in density of digital technology startups among small metro areas (1990-2010)
Ranked No. 5: 20 best college towns in America (2013-14)

Fort Collins, CO

Fort Collins

City population: 148,612 (2012)
Major school: Colorado State University
University enrollment: 31,514 (fall 2013)
Ranked No. 2: High-tech startup density among all metro areas (2010)
Ranked No. 6: High-tech startup density among small to midsize metro areas (2010)
Ranked No. 2: Largest increase in high-tech startup density among small to midsize metro areas (1990-2010)
Ranked No. 2: Density of digital technology startups among small to midsize metro areas (2010)
Ranked: One of 10 most promising tech hubs (2014)
Ranked No. 15 (tie): America’s 20 most economically vibrant college towns (2011)
Ranked No. 11: America’s 20 fastest-growing college towns (2000-10)

Missoula, MT

Missoula MT

City population: 68,394 (2012)
Major school: University of Montana
University enrollment: 14,525 (fall 2013)
Ranked No. 5: High-tech startup density among small metro areas (2010)
Ranked No. 5: Largest increase in high-tech startup density among small metro areas (1990-2010)
Ranked No. 1: Density of digital technology startups among small metro areas (2010)
Ranked No. 2: Largest increase in density of digital technology startups among small metro areas (1990-2010)
Ranked No. 7: America’s 10 best college towns (2013)

Provo, UT

Provo UT

City population: 115,919 (2012)
Major school: Brigham Young University
University enrollment: 30,243 (fall 2013)
Ranked No. 2: High-tech startup density among midsize to large metro areas (2010)
Ranked No. 8: Largest increase in high-tech startup density among midsize to large metro areas (1990-2010)
Ranked No. 2: Density of digital technology startups among midsize to large metro areas (2010)
Ranked No. 10: Largest increase in density of digital technology startups among midsize to large metro areas (1990-2010)
Ranked No. 2: Economic performance among large cities (2013)

Sources: American Institute for Economic Research, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Inc.com, Livability.com, Milken Institute, Techie.com, The Atlantic Cities, The SpareFoot Blog, U.S. Census Bureau, local universities

Note: The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation said that for a small metro area, the presence of just a dozen tech companies could have been enough to land it on the foundation’s overall ranking of top U.S. tech hubs.

John is editor of The SpareFoot Blog. He first moved to Austin in 1999, when downtown Austin wasn't nearly as lively as it is today. John's loves include pizza, University of Kansas basketball and puns.

  • chiefus

    cool story dawgge

css.php