Why Tech Workers Can’t Leave San Francisco Fast Enough
Most tech workers in the Bay Area of San Francisco, California, have had a love-hate relationship with their living situation for years.
They pay astronomical rent and mortgage payments, occupy in microscopic living quarters, and tend to commute an hour or more to get to work. (For most of them, that’s the “hate” part of the equation.) On the other hand, they live in one of the (allegedly) “coolest” cities in the world and are at the epicenter of all the technological advances an I.T. guy or gal could want – and the weather is not half-bad either, most of the time (that’s the “love” part, by the way). However, just as it has with so many other aspects of life, COVID-19 has thrown off the balance in the love-hate relationship and, for many tech workers, there just is not enough love left to keep them living in San Fran.
Enter the dedicated visionaries at the economic development offices of Savannah, Georgia. Never ones to let a discontented, high-earning population stay stuck in their teeny, tiny households on the West Coast when they could be living large on the east coast, Savannah, Georgia, did not just put up billboards with pictures of sunshine or point out that the cost of living in Savannah is less than one-third of the cost of living in San Francisco. They put up move-out money to get those techies headed for the Peach State. And it worked.
The tech workers headed for the southeast – and many of them decided to stay permanently. For example, one start-up investor ditched his $4,000-a-month one-bedroom apartment and bought a historic property to fix up in his spare time. Then, he teamed up with a local business development group to put together a maritime innovation center to bring more businesses to the area. The transplants are not just bringing their high salaries (remember, they work remotely now earning west-coast wages); they are also bringing Silicon Valley innovation and enthusiasm for growth to the local economy.
Another San Francisco transplant missed that luxurious, tiny-home feeling of community she experienced back west when she was working on her first start-up and crammed into a house with 12 other people in a Bay Area apartment. In Savannah, that dream took on a new shape: a luxurious, tiny-house compound where the properties sell for under $50,000 (at present) and the esthetic caters to new southern residents looking for a new home far from the old one – but with that same laid-back feeling, access to yoga, plenty of swimming pools, and an organic farm.
While some critics argue that these changes in the Savannah market could alter the classic, southern feel and appeal of the riverside city, the fact is that the people who take the city up on its offer of $2,000 in moving-cost assistance are moving to the area because they are attracted to Savannah, not just because they need somewhere “down south” to stay. The Technology Workforce Incentive is just one of many examples of how Savannah, Georgia, has reacted to the pandemic pro-actively and creatively – and the local economy, while certainly still in a relative slump compared to 2019, is recovering faster because of it.