Why is the Heartland Becoming a Destination for Entrepreneurs? People Can Afford to Live Here.

by Greg Prestemon

For $4,600 per month, you could get:

A 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom 900-square-foot apartment in San Francisco. I’m not going to undersell you on this property. It’s gorgeous, has great views of the bay, and in terms of San Francisco real estate, is probably a great deal.

(Honestly, I wouldn’t know. I’m an Iowa kid who lives in Missouri—so it seems insane to me, but you might be different.)

For $4,600 per month, you could also:

  • Pay the mortgage on a 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom, 2,000-square-foot home in New Town, a development outside of St. Charles, Missouri.
  • Pay the lease payment on a 2017 BMW X3.
  • Make the payment on a decent used boat, along with the dock fees (if you’re a water person), and though we don’t have bay views here in St. Charles County, we do have the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

After paying for your house, your BMW, and your boat, you would still have $2,000 left. If you put that money in your retirement account, when the time comes to call it quits and spend more time on the boat, you would have…

A lot of money.

I know the Bay Area has its advantages. I just got back from a trip to California. The weather is amazing. The coastal and mountain areas of California are beautiful. The wineries are great. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a startup or a venture capital firm.

And you pay for every bit of that, and more.

The high cost of living forces people who call the Bay Area home to make difficult choices. San Francisco has one of the lowest per capita populations of children in the country, simply because it’s too expensive for most people to raise children there. And those apartments that cost thousands of dollars are occupied by a whole lot of people.

Some people may love that—personally, I need my space. The appeal of sharing a few hundred square feet with other human beings disappears around the time drinking from a keg becomes socially unacceptable.

The cost of living is also one reason why the Midwest is becoming a beacon for entrepreneurs—and I’m not just talking about young people who can survive on Ramen and don’t mind sharing 900 square feet with eight other people.

At the EDC Incubator and in OPO Startups, I hear how important the cost of living is to new entrepreneurs. One entrepreneur in St. Charles County told me the cost of living here gave him the flexibility to quit his job and start his business, knowing it might be years before he could reach the salary he left. The low cost of living meant he could afford to make that decision without being panicked about paying his mortgage.

Silicon Valley will always be a hub of entrepreneurship and innovation.

But the average entrepreneur isn’t a recent college graduate who can afford to live the life of poverty Silicon Valley often requires.

According to research conducted by the Kauffman Foundation, the average age of startup founders in high-growth industries is 40. High-growth startups are almost twice as likely to be launched by people over 55 as by people ages 20-34.

To these demographics, cost of living matters.

That’s one reason why St. Charles County, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and other heartland cities are receiving national recognition for attracting a growing number of entrepreneurs. In fact, the St. Charles/St. Louis region is one of the most affordable large cities in America, and St. Charles County has a lower-than-average cost of living compared to the national average—and a higher quality of life.

And California isn’t the only place we can find great wine. We have some pretty amazing wineries in St. Charles County and throughout Missouri.

So come start your business here.

And when you’re here, enjoy the big house, BMW, boat, and retirement fund you’ll get for the cost of that apartment in San Francisco.

Greg Prestemon is President and CEO of the St. Charles County EDC Business and Community Partners.

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