Feb 5, 2020 - Economy & Business

Exclusive: Grant funds tech job growth outside Silicon Valley

One America Works, a nonprofit that helps high-growth companies find the right cities for expansion, received a $1 million grant over two years from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

Why it matters: While the dollar amount isn't huge, it shows an increasing interest in strategically spreading economic opportunity to new places.

How it works: One America Works piloted its program in Pittsburgh in 2019, after an initial $250,000 grant from the RK Mellon Foundation.

  • In the first year, One America Works sourced five companies seeking to fill 250 positions with the expectation that 80 tech jobs would land in Pittsburgh, according to founder Patrick McKenna, an entrepreneur and investor with roots in Silicon Valley.
  • The organization uses analytics to match the right city for the company's requirements based on talent, transportation access, quality of life and affordability.

The goal is to expand the "New Growth Playbook" into more cities and build a pipeline of companies interested in expanding there. Contenders include Columbus, Indianapolis, Nashville and St. Louis.

The big picture: McKenna said he started One America Works last year to "get more companies to see the value in accessing new talent, lowering cost and increasing opportunity in more places."

  • He's targeting early high-growth companies with around 200 employees who are planning to hire another 200.
  • Starting an office outside of Silicon Valley for 10–20 employees with the potential to grow is increasingly attractive to startups struggling to afford and retain talent in the ultra-expensive and competitive Bay Area.

"Imagine if we had 20 other cities besides the three to four we have now that were legitimate destinations for the tech workforce," McKenna said. "That changes the whole country."

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