Could Henderson County Be The Next Silicon Valley?

November 8, 2011

The article below was written by Zac Northup of NiSi, presented on Business Insiderread the full article here.

Where will the Internet’s next greatest business be born?

While most people immediately associate the phrase “start-up” with Silicon Valley, or New York, the fact is that there are millions of budding entrepreneurs outside of America’s existing technology centers.

As broadband spreads into rural areas and small towns across the United States, economies are emerging in places that haven’t been considered viable markets by traditional investors and hardware manufacturers looking for areas to expand.

That is about to change.

According to the United States Census Bureau, small towns, cities, and counties with 10,000 to 50,000 residents are considered “micropolitan statistical areas.”

Sometimes, these are college towns filled with young Mark Zuckerberg wannabes who have grown up using all of the gadgets that drive today’s economy.

These young Turks of suburbia can’t remember life without the Internet, and many have viable ideas that, with a little love and mentoring from a tech-savvy angel investor or two, could become successful technology businesses.

Doubt this?  Consider the fact that many colleges and universities with computer science and engineering curricula require students to write mobile applications or develop engineering prototypes for various classes.

Unfortunately, more times than not, all the student is left with at the end of the semester is a good grade and pat on the back.

Science and technology programs at these schools aren’t structured to provide institutional help in finding investors or even teach tech students how to market their great ideas.

But the fact is that it’s easier to teach a computer engineer how to become a marketer than it is to teach a marketer how to become a computer engineer.  All of these dormant apps and technology projects represent a huge untapped market of intellectual property.  Investors just need to know where to look.

With this in mind, we have dug deep into the U.S. Census data and discovered 20 micropolitan areas that meet certain demographic requirements for a budding technology economy.  These factors include a high level of broadband accessibility, a sizable workforce (in relative terms), a vibrant local economy, and the presence of a small college or university.

Interestingly, all of these locations have unemployment rates as much as five points below the national average, and the top five have a broadband availability rate of 100%.  Even though the list is ranked from one to twenty, all things being considered, each of these locations present equal opportunities.

  1. Craighead County, AR
  2. Fayette County, GA
  3. Story County, IA
  4. Pottawattamie County, IA
  5. Ascension Parish, LA
  6. Calvert County, MD
  7. Cecil County, MD
  8. Saline County, AR
  9. Daviess County, KY
  10. Lafourche Parish, LA
  11. Platte County, MO
  12. Madison County, MS
  13. Gallatin County, MT
  14. Comanche County, OK
  15. Roanoke County, VA
  16. Ozaukee County, WI
  17. Buchanan County, MO
  18. Henderson County, NC
  19. Grafton County, NH
  20. Monongalia County, WV

In today’s global economy, companies spend millions of dollars trying to break into emerging markets overseas but are either missing the fact that 15 years into the Internet Revolution, there are still areas of this country that have yet to fully realize the promise of a technology-based economy.

Great ideas don’t stop at the edge of Harvard Square and tomorrow’s Farmville could actually be written on a farm.   The question is who is going to make money when that happens.