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Philly becomes more powerful magnet for tech jobs

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Tech-savvy millennials are moving to Philadelphia in huge numbers, but many of the jobs they want are still out in the suburbs.

 

The Route 202 corridor, slicing through Chester and Montgomery counties, is still the main artery for tech employment in the region. A new report from CBRE, a commercial real estate group, finds the two counties alone account for more than half of all tech employment in the greater Delaware Valley.

Researcher Ian Anderson said the trend line, though, is favoring the city, which has seen a 30 percent increase in tech jobs during the past three-plus years.

“You know, for some of these tech workers, it isn’t appealing for them to work in some commodity office park outside King of Prussia,” he said. “They want the exposed brick — the urban cool feel — of working downtown or off of 13th Street or Third Street in Old City and Northern Liberties.”

The Pennsylvania suburbs aren’t exactly hurting: they also saw double-digit tech growth during the same period.

But younger demographics are now favoring Philly, and tax credits are luring businesses back to town.

Back in 2000, Rick Nucci launched startup Boomi in then red-hot Conshohocken. But his latest company, Guru, is headquartered in Old City.

He says pitching to West Coast venture capitalists used to require some explanation for “why Philly?”

“Nobody gives us weird looks anymore,” said Nucci. “When I say where we are, I hear, ‘Yeah, there’s a bunch of companies growing in that region.’ That’s really cool.”

Not everyone sees the border between Philly and its neighboring communities as an issue worth worrying about.

Lucinda Duncalfe is currently running two tech companies, Monetate in the ‘burbs, and Real Food Works in Center City.

“Historically, there’s been almost a war between the city and the suburbs, fighting over where companies were, and who had bragging rights and all the rest,” she said.

“I think fundamentally, the entire region benefits from a stronger city.”

Those benefits aren’t reaching everywhere, just yet. The CBRE report finds New Jersey suburbs shed 11 percent of their technology jobs over the same period.

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