us business metro centers
The US economy as a whole is clearly based on specialization of individual states and cities in certain types of activities. This “federal division of labor” makes a very diversified whole at the country-level but on a grand scale. However, some key metropolitan areas exist which host the majority of corporate headquarters, nonprofits and government agencies.
In the interest of helping a foreign business choose its ultimate location for sales and marketing activities in the US, here is a brief definition of the most notable of these metropolitan areas. Major channel partners (agencies, integrators) and customers are also likely to be located around some of these major metropolitan areas.
Population: 4 million in the city and 13 million in the metro area
Geography: LA is strategically pretty well positioned on the West Coast of the US to serve business with the whole western United States.
Economy: Los Angeles (LA) is a large city with an increasingly diversified base of service business activities, a strong focus on entertainment, the media and technology.
The LA business culture is one of openness to new ideas and technological innovation because of its very diverse population base and its proximity to the US technology center of the Bay Area (San Francisco / Silicon Valley).
New York City
Population: 8 million in the city and 19 million in the metro area
Geography: NYC is pretty well positioned on the East Coast of the US to serve business with the whole eastern United States.
Economy: New York City (NYC) is a major national and international center for finance, insurance, real estate, media and the arts in the United States.
The NYC business culture is often described by speed, elitism, and aggressiveness. There is little technology focus in NYC apart from smaller hubs in Silicon Alley which really emerged as a result of the Internet explosion. The lack of history with technology (like in the Bay Area-San Francisco) makes the focus of technology companies from New York often heavily tied to its roots in the media (Razor Fish), advertising (web agencies), of finance sector (financial software).
Population: 0.5 million in the city and 5 million in the metro area
Geography: DC is not often the base of business activities not focused on federal government and administrations however and is probably not an ideal base for doing business in the rest of the software and web development industry (even on the East Coast). There is however significant business, government and technology activities in Virginia (just outside of DC).
Economy: In Washington, DC (DC) in 2008, the federal government and its administrations directly accounted for about 27% of the jobs in Washington, D.C. Many organizations such as law firms, independent contractors (both defense and civilian), non-profit organizations, lobbying firms, trade unions, industry trade groups, and professional associations have their headquarters in or near D.C. to be close to the federal government. The District has growing industries not directly related to government, especially in the areas of education, finance, public policy, and scientific research.
The DC business culture is one centered on the all powerful federal government power and its ability to generate business through government contractors.
Bay Area (San Francisco – Silicon Valley)
Population: 1.8 million combined in the cities of San Francisco and San Jose and 7.4 million in the metro area (including East Bay, Oakland, Palo Alto area, South Bay)
Geography: San Francisco and the Bay Area is the cultural, financial, and technology center of the US West Coast. San Francisco has the second highest population density of any major city in North America after New York City. San The Bay Area is also major manufacturing and distribution center, rail terminus/hub, and the fourth largest container shipping port in the United States.
Economy: Befitting of the title Silicon Valley, this region is home to a vast number of technology sector giants. Some notable tech companies headquartered in the Bay Area: AMD, Intel, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Google, eBay, and Yahoo! As a consequence of the rapid growth of these and other companies, the area has gained increasing political and economic influence both within California and throughout the world.
The Bay Area business culture is one that is focused on technology and the many high staked new ventures financed with venture capital. Such tech ventures generate enormous quantities of “buzz” and media attention with often a small portion of the published innovation surviving beyond their much publicized launch. In this atmosphere, foreign technology companies are rarely noticed unless they move their headquarters to the Bay Area and follow aggressive investor-funded market strategies that the Bay Area opportunistic business community is likely to gravitate towards.
Population: 0.6 million in the city and 4.5 million in the metro area
Geography: Boston is the country’s fourth most densely populated city that is not a part of a larger city’s metropolitan area.
Economy: Boston’s colleges and universities (Harvard, MIT, etc.) have a major impact on the city and region’s economy by attracting high-tech industries to the city and surrounding region. Boston is home to a number of technology companies and is a hub for biotechnology. Boston also receives the highest absolute amount of annual funding from the National Institutes of Health of all cities in the United States. Some of the other important industries are financial services, especially mutual funds and insurance.
The Boston DC business culture is one of the closest to the business culture of major Western European economies (England, France, etc.). It is one marked by conservatism, a strong respect for research and academia. Boston technologists are often involved with B2B innovation but less with media, consumer, and end user focused innovations. There is a strong history of software innovation but less than in California.
Population in Seattle: 0.5 million in the city and 3.3 million in the metro area
Population in Portland: 0.5 million in the city and 2.2 million in the metro area
Geography: Portland and Seattle located respectively south and north of the delta of the Columbia River are separated by a 2 hours car drive dotted with suburban towns such as Spokane and Vancouver, WA. They are close to forming a single metropolitan area and have important dependencies with each other.
Economy: The economy of Portland is centered around electronics and semi-conductors (Intel, Tektronix, Solar World, Triquint, InFocus, etc.), software (WebTrends, Jive, Learning.com, many web agencies, ODSL, Linus Torwalds, etc.) , and a number of lifestyle product categories (Nike, Addidas US, Columbia Sportsware, Leatherman, etc.) and some medical products. Seattle’s industry is mainly centered around software (Microsoft) and aerospace (Boeing).
The Seattle-Portland business culture is dominated by the Nortwest lifestyle which is viewed as the last frontier for population growth and innovation by many. There is a strong focus on sustainable development and lifestyle enhancement. The high education level, low cost of life, and lax fiscal policies has made the area a popular location for new ventures in software and many other domains.
Population: 2.8 million in the city and 10 million in the metro area
Geography: Chicago is located in northeastern Illinois at the southwestern tip of Lake Michigan. Chicago is placed strategically in the northern center of the continent and has traditionally been the center of activity for the large “Midwest” which covers most of rural North America.
Economy: Chicago is a major world financial center. Manufacturing, printing, publishing, food processing, and healthcare products play major roles in the city’s economy.
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