The Seattle area is the hottest tech office market in the U.S. outside of Silicon Valley, according to a new report ranking the nation’s top tech towns.
Tech companies leased 2.5 million square feet in Seattle-Bellevue in the last year, trailing only Silicon Valley at 3.9 million square feet, according the report from real estate firm JLL. Homegrown companies like Amazon and Microsoft have carried the local office market for years, but Seattle’s growth as a tech powerhouse has been fueled in part by well-known tech brands from outside the area establishing engineering centers in the region — at least 80 companies so far.
The office ranking is a part of a larger scorecard that takes into consideration cities’ resilience to difficult economic conditions, talent pool, economic momentum, innovation and cost of living/office space. Those metrics peg Seattle as the fourth best tech market in the country behind a pair of San Francisco markets — Silicon Valley and San Francisco proper — and Austin.
Out-of-town companies are beating down Seattle’s door partially because the area is affordable compared to San Francisco and it has a comparable talent pool. JLL scores Seattle’s depth of talent as equal to San Francisco’s and trailing only Silicon Valley among U.S. tech markets.
According to JLL’s report, the Seattle area is home to three of the six most active tech neighborhoods in the country in terms of leasing — Lake Union, downtown Seattle and downtown Bellevue. Not one of those three neighborhoods appears among the top 30 most expensive office submarkets. In fact, office rents in the top Seattle-area neighborhoods are approximately 55 percent less than the most expensive neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area.
One area where Seattle doesn’t come close to matching its Bay Area rivals is venture capital. JLL reports $614 million in funding in Seattle-Bellevue between the third quarter of last year and the second quarter of 2016. That figure ranks eighth in the U.S. and is only a drop in the bucket compared to the close to $11.3 billion and $5.3 billion in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, respectively.
Despite those big Bay Area numbers, venture capital funding nationwide has slowed recently. According to the JLL report, investment volume is down .75 percent over last year, and the number of venture-backed deals has decreased each of the last five quarters.
Initial public offerings, another important funding mechanism for tech companies, are down as well. JLL reports that tech companies have been more careful when considering expansion as a result of this funding crunch. But that doesn’t mean the tech industry is heading to a downturn.
“If you thought the technology industry was coming to the end of its reign because of slowing venture capital investment and a dry IPO pipeline, you were, well, wrong,” according to the report. “While it’s true that economic expansion, in general, is beginning to slow after nearly seven years of growth, the technology sector remains the leading industry for real estate expansion in the United States — driving nearly 25 percent of leasing activity across the country over the last two years.”
It’s not just Seattle and San Francisco getting all the attention from tech companies. Areas like Indianapolis, Nashville, New Jersey, San Diego and other places not normally associated with technology have seen growth from startups as well as large companies.
JLL reports that 63 percent of tech companies that signed leases for more than 20,000 square feet of office space throughout the U.S. over the past year are growing. Only 4.6 percent of those tech companies were shrinking their real estate footprint.