Dynamist Blog


Red Herring (yes it's still around) reports on a largely unnoticed, and certainly unmeasured, surge in tech entrepreneurship in weird places:

With the rapid adoption of inexpensive broadband technology, and the cost of urban living still high despite the downturn, tech communities are popping up in unlikely places. Migratory entrepreneurs have set up shop in places as diverse as Grand Forks, North Dakota, Wenatchee, Washington, Bozeman, Montana, and Amherst, Massachusetts--scrapping the rat race and cutting back on their business costs, to boot. Many of these businesses are home-based and unincorporated, literally hidden from view and flying under the radar of government statisticians. Still, these "hidden tech" communites are getting VC attention.

Steve Reynolds, a senior manager at AOL, moved to Amherst from Maryland in the summer of 2002. He set up shop in his attic, where he has been managing a portion of AOL's marketing support operations. News coverage on the area's tech community convinced him there was a good cluster of like-minded techies to provide camaraderie off hours. Almost two years later, he's happy to be off the D.C. Beltway and is spending more time with his family and the outdoors. "Commuting took a lot of years off my life," he says.

Nearby is the office of Larry Jackson, a veteran Hollywood producer/director who spent 23 years as an executive with the Samuel Goldwyn Company, Orion, and Miramax, and was a senior producer for films such as Silence of the Lambs and Mystic Pizza. Mr. Jackson now operates a distribution company for independent films from a home office--he says he got tired of the Hollywood hustle and decided to try the simpler life. Mr. Jackson, who signs emails with "Lawrence of Cyberia," says the move required some initial adjustment, but he has settled into the slower pace. And the move, he adds, has been great for his kids.

Then there are David and Myra Kurkowski, who left the Philadelphia suburbs several years ago to operate a pharmaceutical market research business in Cape May, New Jersey, a resort town on the state shore famous for its beachfront attractions. What has surprised them, they say, is the proliferation of recent transplants. "All of our permanent staff are immigrants to Cape May, as are we," Mr. Kurkowski notes.

I personally don't see the appeal of the boondocks. But this is yet another suggestion--admittedly anecdotal--that the economy may be shifting toward work that doesn't get counted in the jobs data. I'll have more on that subject next week.

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