Hey, Seattle: The Buckeye state is coming for your jobs.
JobsOhio, the economic development agency of the midwestern state, is running a series of billboards throughout Seattle touting the benefits of living in a place where one can “actually save for a rainy day.”
The GeekWire team spotted the billboards in the Magnolia and Queen Anne neighborhoods — two enclaves populated with thousands of tech workers that border major tech campuses (Expedia, Facebook and Amazon). Of course, those tech campuses are largely vacant these days — so it’s unclear how many motorists are actually seeing the billboards.
Even so, the campaign is part of a larger effort by Ohio and other states to tout their attributes at a time when the global pandemic has radically altered where and how people work, especially mobile tech workers. With those work patterns shifting, Ohio and other states are hoping to capitalize.
At a recent JobsOhio board meeting, the agency noted that it’s attempting to “drive awareness in a bold manner” and leverage positive reaction to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s response to COVID-19. The campaign — dubbed “Ohio is for Leaders” — is largely targeting coastal cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Boston.
Not a day goes by without another story about the so-called Silicon Valley exodus — including a piece in Axios today titled “The Rebellion Against Silicon Valley” citing data that 89,000 households have reportedly left San Francisco since the pandemic hit. The warm climates of Miami and Austin have emerged as favorite destinations for many tech workers, but Seattle also has benefitted from the recent migration.
Last year, GeekWire reported that Tanium — a cybersecurity company valued at $9 billion — moved its headquarters from the San Francisco Bay Area to Kirkland, Wash. At the time of the move, Tanium CEO Orion Hindawi bluntly told us: “San Francisco is not the city it was 20 years ago.”
And data indicates that Seattle may not be losing as many tech jobs as Silicon Valley. Employee migration data from LinkedIn shows that Seattle added 2.2 tech workers for every one worker that left, from March to October of last year. That’s slightly below the 2.5 number recorded in 2019. The report also found that the number of people moving from the Bay Area to Seattle increased 28% year-over-year from March to October.
However, a separate analysis from U-Haul released earlier this month found that Washington saw a precipitous drop in migration into the state, falling from 5th to 36th in 2020. Ohio, on the other hand, jumped three spots to No. 4 when measuring the number of one-way U-Haul trucks entering a state versus leaving. Tennessee, Texas and Arizona rounded out the top five, while California ranked last.
Ohio is certainly a cheaper place to live than western Washington. However, there are other factors at play — and we are not talking about the weather. As one example, Ohio levies a state income tax, while Washington state does not.
Plugging Seattle and Columbus, Ohio into a cost-of-living calculator shows some interesting results. The overall cost of living in Columbus is 4% lower than Seattle, according to the SmartAsset calculator.
Not surprisingly, housing costs are 18% higher and food costs are 13% higher in Seattle. However, the tax costs are 29% higher in Ohio’s state capital. Meanwhile, NerdWallet’s cost-of-living analysis shows that Columbus is 43% cheaper than Seattle, but it does not take into consideration state and local taxes.
In a statement to GeekWire, JobsOhio CEO J.P. Nauseef touted Ohio’s housing costs, tax structure, shorter commutes and “abundance of friendly neighbors.” He added that Ohio’s “door is open and welcoming.”
“Ohio provides just the right mix of business opportunity and affordability,” he said.
This is not the first time that economic development whizzes have targeted Seattle tech workers. In 2017, the City of Calgary displayed a giant billboard next to Amazon’s campus in the South Lake Union neighborhood, hoping to win attention as a destination for the company’s second headquarters.