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Amazon, Apple and others are expanding out of major tech cities — but mostly to other major tech cities

The rich get richer.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, with a golden trophy in the foreground.
San Francisco still wins most of the tech real estate.
Karl Nielsen / Getty
Rani Molla is a senior correspondent at Vox and has been focusing her reporting on the future of work. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade — often in charts — including at Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.

Lately, it’s felt as though tech companies are moving anywhere but the San Francisco Bay Area.

Apple is adding a new campus in Austin that can accommodate 15,000 workers. Google is amplifying its already large presence in New York City, with major additions in Chelsea and near the West Village.

Amazon will build two new headquarters, one in the Long Island City section of Queens, New York, and another in Crystal City, Northern Virginia. Its 14-month-long national contest had convinced cities from Detroit to Des Moines that they had a chance at the e-commerce company’s 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment.

But it’s mostly just a feeling. Despite this spate of announcements, the Bay Area still reigns supreme.

As of 2017, tech companies occupied 159 million square feet of office and R&D space in Silicon Valley (which includes the San Francisco peninsula), according to real estate company CBRE. The Washington, D.C., metro area, thanks to government-contracted tech work, was a distant second, with an estimated 49 million square feet of space — about a third the size of Silicon Valley.

“In the year ahead, the region will continue to see high tech job growth well above the national average, though growth will be slower than in previous years due to the Bay Area’s tight labor market conditions,” Colin Yasukochi, CBRE’s director of research and analysis, wrote in the company’s latest report.

And tech companies that are expanding outside of the Bay Area or one of the three other top tech hubs — Seattle, Boston and New York, based on the number of tech companies headquartered there — are mostly expanding within those four locales.

Nearly half of the 18 million square feet in tech company expansion in the past five years by Bay Area-based tech companies went to Seattle, Boston and New York, according to CBRE. About one third of expansion (2.2 million square feet) by Seattle-, Boston- and New York- headquartered companies was to those same four cities.

These CBRE estimates only account for space that is currently occupied, so wouldn’t yet include Amazon’s planned four million to eight million square feet of space for each of its two new headquarters. Nor would it include Google or Apple’s latest expansions, but those additions are unlikely to move the needle much.

That’s not to say tech companies aren’t branching out at all beyond the top four markets, especially as real estate costs balloon in the upper echelon of tech cities. But when they do, it’s still mostly to other locales that already have substantial tech company activity.

In short, the areas already rich in tech are simply getting richer.

This article originally appeared on

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