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Silicon Valley Tech Companies Flock To Denver For Talent And High Quality Of Life

Downtown Denver with the Front Range in the background

The Bay Area has a new rival when it comes to attracting tech companies and talent: Denver.

Boasting one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. and the second best place to live according to U.S. News and World Report, Denver has become a desirable location for major tech companies and startups. From the Google campus in Boulder to Slack eyeing a 50K SF space in downtown Denver, 22 tech companies either opened satellite offices or moved their HQ to the Denver Metro Area in the past year.

The migration of tech talent from the coast to the mountains has become the focus of Pivot To Colorado, a public-private initiative to poach talent from the Bay Area. The $500K campaign has used billboard ads and digital marketing to convince prospective new arrivals that the city fosters more community and less competition.

In the Bay Area, that competition includes the search for affordable housing. Rents in the Bay Area are among the highest in the U.S. While the population and construction boom has led to affordability concerns among Denver residents, the metro area remains affordable relative to housing costs in other cities on the West Coast. As of October, the average rent for an apartment in Denver is $1,535, a 1% year-over-year increase, RentCafé reports.

Tech companies, in response to the influx of talent, have taken over 849K SF of new office and commercial space between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs between July 2017 and June 2018.

Denver can also offer something more than an abundance of jobs and a lower cost of living. The metro area, surrounded by mountains, hiking paths and numerous indoor/outdoor spaces, is in the vanguard of the growing trend toward office wellness.

“Companies have realized that the tech talent pool isn't only in the Bay Area, and Denver has a lot to offer in the realm of young tech talent,” stok Project Manager Jeremy Attema said. “The cost of living is getting outrageous in the Bay Area and tech companies are struggling to attract the talent that they want. Many people are looking at cities that can offer the same amenities the Bay Area can, and Denver fits that well.”

A high-performance real estate services firm, stok is focused on improving the built environment with regenerative and human-centric design. The company balances clients’ financial and performance goals with sustainability and occupant wellness. It focuses on the design and implementation of high-performance buildings, which are designed to improve occupant productivity, comfort and health.

Essential design strategies for high-performance buildings to enhance occupant performance and experience include, but are not limited to, indoor air quality and ventilation, thermal comfort, natural and artificial lighting attuned to circadian rhythms, noise and acoustics, active design, outdoor views and biophilic design, which mimics the materials and shapes of the natural world to promote wellness.

San Francisco skyline

Denver has become a leader in this new type of development, Attema said. As the seventh healthiest city in the U.S., according to America's Health Rankings, wellness is ingrained in its culture.

“Championing the health and wellness movement in this region is critical because Denver and Colorado overall are very healthy and physically active,” Attema said. “Residents get outdoors more than other areas in the country so bringing that into the office makes a remarkable difference.”

Tapping into the growing demand for health and wellness design in the workplace, stok implements biophilic design principles that integrate nature with design to create habitats where people thrive. The company has explored this design strategy across several projects in Denver, as design has an influential role in fostering health and wellness.

“It’s more than just having a living wall and putting a planter every 50 feet,” Attema said. “It’s so much more than that. Biophilic design involves using natural colors, elements and materials integrated with natural forms, patterns and daylight. And it’s not qualitative jargon — these strategies have been tested and proven. High-performance buildings really impact people’s ability to function in the built environment.”

Building with occupant health and wellness in mind has a significant financial benefit. Focusing on wellness upgrades can create over $23K of net present value profit per employee over 10 years, according to a new white paper from stok. Combined with Denver’s lower cost of living compared to the Bay Area, moving an office to Colorado offers savings for both the employer and the employee.

While many tech companies moving to the Denver area are either smaller tech companies or satellite offices, with time these companies will grow and mature as the Denver lifestyle draws more talent and becomes a major tech hub, Attema said. Wellness-oriented office buildings could help fuel this growth, should the city find a way to entice developers on the multifamily side to build more affordable housing.  

“If Denver continues to offer this high quality of life and keeps [housing] affordability relatively stable, there is no reason Denver can't move from a secondary market to a primary market like Seattle, riding on the backs of tech companies,” Attema said.

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and stok. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.