Is Milwaukee the Next Silicon Valley?

…Maybe in the Next Few Years

In the popular imagination, the tech industry is a coastal phenomenon — a West Coast phenomenon, to be precise. Silicon Valley attracts thousands of aspiring Zuckerbergs and Steve Jobs wannabes, and ambitious coders trek there every day hoping for a job at industry titans like Google and Facebook. But as rents continue to rise in Silicon Valley and the cost of living explodes, some analysts are predicting that the tech world might start to look for greener — and cheaper — pastures in the Midwest.

So how close are we? Rentable has done research on the best cities for tech jobs, taking into account not only job concentration but also income and rent. To show which U.S. cities enjoy both abundant tech job opportunities and approachable compensation and rents, we created a score, with employment weighted 75% and the income-to-rent ratio 25%.

Although some of the cities on the ranked list are familiar — the sheer job opportunities in San Francisco can offset the high rent — others are surprising. Detroit, Madison, Indianapolis, and Cleveland (where you can always find cool things to do) are all in the top 25, buoyed by cheap rents and increasing concentrations of tech jobs.

But what about Milwaukee?

With a score of 2.73, Milwaukee was ranked #34 on our list, smack dab in the middle of the rankings. Jobs in computers and mathematics account for 34.3 jobs out of every 1,000. That’s a far cry from San Jose’s concentration of 124.5 per 1,000, but it’s respectable when compared to other mid-sized cities outside Silicon Valley like St. Louis (32.6), San Antonio (30), or even Portland (37.4). With major software companies like the Astronautics Corporation of America and Zywave, as well as national headquarters for Johnson Controls and Kohl’s, the area is rich with corporate infrastructure.

And it’s a cheap place to live. You don’t have to break the bank to find a cheap one-bedroom apartment in Milwaukee — the median rent is only $806 per month. The median salary for tech workers in Milwaukee is $72,570, giving the city a 7.5-to-1 income-to-rent ratio. That’s one of the highest ratios on our list, over three times the ratio facing tech workers in industry hotspot San Francisco (2.5).

Perhaps in the near future some of those Bay Area workers will move to flyover country. In the meantime, look for Milwaukee’s job offerings to expand, as companies try to attract and retain new talent.