The Bay Area costing what it does, and technology being a slightly more transplantable line of work than, say, farming or mining, a variety of pundits are once again wondering whether the Bay Area is due for some kind of mass tech worker exodus. It's maybe such an interesting idea because, as the Chronicle was saying last year, it would be sort of ironic that a factor to which the high expense of the Bay Area has been attributed — the influx of tech workers flush with cash — might disappear as quickly as it came because those tech workers can't, or don't want to, pay the price to live here.
A few sources for the exodus hypothesis: Tech job listing site Dice.com president Bob Melk tells Bloomberg that since the end March 2015 tech job listings in San Francisco have gone down six percent. Meanwhile, they’ve increased 38 percent in Seattle, 12 percent in Austin, and 6 percent in Phoenix.
Further, there's some info from Indeed.com, another jobs site, which Quartz had cited this spring: 35 percent of tech job searches from the Silicon Valley region were for jobs elsewhere — a 30 percent increase year-over-year.
“In the Bay Area, there’s been such enormous growth and opportunity that it’s created some challenges for happiness,” senior vice president at Indeed.com Paul D’Arcy told Quartz. “Job searchers are always balancing opportunity and happiness. As people think about what the right fit for them is, housing, traffic, and quality of life are really important factors.”
Then there are the satellite office locations to consider: Twitter has offices in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Boulder. Airbnb has an office in Portland. "A lot of companies are opening shops outside of the Bay Area because of the candidate shortage for the skill set that they need,” Megan Slabinski, who works at tech-staffing firm Robert Half Technology. “Looking at Seattle and Portland, you’ve got large tech hubs of candidates. There’s a great pool of talent.”So, do tech workers really need to work in the Bay Area, and if not, will they wake up to that fact and choose not to?
Gabriel Metcalf, president of the urban policy group SPUR, told the Chronicle.“A lot of the people that we think of as working in tech don’t have so much money that they can just live wherever they want to live, without worrying about cost,” Metcalf said. "Fundamentally, they’re subject to the same trade-off that other middle-class families are in this city: San Francisco is a wonderful place to have a family — if you can afford it.” Of course, “By far, the greatest problem for families in this city is cost of living. Full stop,” Metcalf said. “If it weren’t so expensive, we would have more families being able to make the choice to stay here.”
“We see relocations out of San Francisco increasingly,” said Hired Inc. CEO Mehul Patel. "If you actually factor in cost of living, there are much better places to live.” Hired, a job connection website, is nonetheless headquartered in San Francisco.
But in a piece titled "Why Tech Won't Leave The Bay Area," the Atlantic's CityLab rebutted some of these claims last year. Bottom line, they say: "It’s easier to recruit new employees if they work and socialize in one small geographic area." Call it the network effect, IRL. The question is what makes the Bay Area "Silicon Valley" — what puts it at the navel of the technology world. It's not in the water, it's not in the air, it's in the culture, it's in the human resources, and those are harder to pin down.
If tech workers start pooh-poohing the Bay Area like this jackoff in large numbers, then yeah they'll leave, and they've got more options to do so than ever. But, of course, many more tech workers might move in to take their place. And then you consider that last year, the SF metro area grew by 60,000 souls, not all of whom, I'm assuming here, work at Google? Anyway, it might not really matter as much — the Bay Area is likely to remain a big draw to many. After all, How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?