The Best Cities in Pennsylvania for Tech Startups

Looking to launch or grow your business? These cities can help set you up for success.

By
Sarah Kuta
On Wednesday, February 24, 2021 - 09:00
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Think Silicon Valley is the best place to start a tech business? Think again. 

Pennsylvania is full of opportunities for entrepreneurs, whether you're hoping to start your company from scratch or you need a boost to expand your existing business. 

The commonwealth has reliable infrastructure, world-class universities, a highly talented and skilled workforce, a low cost of living and high quality of life. In Pennsylvania, you'll find countless resources and plenty of cheerleaders and collaborators to help you tackle all the challenges (and celebrate the achievements!) of starting a company. 

Plus, there's a long history of supporting early-stage businesses here, thanks to the pioneering Ben Franklin Technology Partners, one of the country's longest-running tech-focused economic development programs. 

"Innovation is in our blood," says Steve D'Ettorre, deputy secretary of technology and innovation for the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development. "We have a rich history of innovation and entrepreneurship here and that mentality resonates throughout Pennsylvania."

If you dream of starting your own tech business, these Pennsylvania cities should be at the top of your list.

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Scranton

If you've ever watched "The Office," then you already know just how business-friendly Scranton is. OK, OK, funny sitcoms aside, Scranton and its twin city Wilkes-Barre are great places to launch your business.

You'll be just a few hours from New York City and northern New Jersey, but you'll be able to launch and run your business at a fraction of the price, thanks to Northeast PA's low cost of living and doing business. Plus, you'll have access to world-class business incubator programs and other entrepreneurship resources. The TekRidge Center at the Jessup Small Business Center is a business incubator space with all the resources, mentorship and support you'll need to get your idea off the ground. And since it's located in a designated Keystone Innovation Zone, your new business will be eligible for tax credits and exemptions. 

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State College

State College is home to Penn State University, which means there's plenty of fresh energy and innovation here all year long (not to mention talented graduates to recruit to your new company!). This Central PA college town is supported by entrepreneurial-focused programs and hubs like the Farrell Center for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Ben Franklin TechCelerator @State College and Happy Valley Launchbox.

Plus, State College offers an affordable cost of living and doing business so that you can spend less on rent and more on research and development. Regular events like Hack PSU, Penn State Startup Week and the Invent Penn State Venture & IP Conference help create and connect a robust community of entrepreneurs and problem-solvers.

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Photo Courtesy of Roy Engelbrecht/Visit Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has its sights set squarely on the future. This southwestern PA city is making a difference in high-impact industries like robotics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, energy, life sciences, health and beyond. With robust startup accelerators like Alphalab Gear, venture capital companies like Innovation Works and major research institutions like Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh, there's a robust startup culture and community here.

Pittsburgh also offers an attractive quality of life for your startup's executives and employees, including a vibrant food scene, sports teams, world-class museums and a focus on diversity and inclusion. It's also incredibly affordable — the average office lease is $23.51 per square foot, which is well below the U.S. average and a far cry from $88.91 in San Francisco and $67.41 in nearby Boston.

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Philadelphia

Philadelphia is a natural choice for launching a company in Pennsylvania, thanks to its large talent pool, quick access to other major cities and business-friendly climate. If you're looking for resources, you'll find plenty in Philadelphia — Pennovation Works, the University City Science Center and the Penn Center for Innovation, just to name a few. There are dozens of accelerators and incubators in Philadelphia, so whether you need help growing your existing business or turning your ideas into action, you'll find a wealth of helpful mentors and cheerleaders here.

Plus, Philadelphia also happens to be a world-class city with arts and culture, top-notch restaurants, nightlife, family-friendly events, shopping and all the other amenities your new employees will be looking for outside of work.

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York

York is in the middle of it all, making it a perfect fit for starting a business. When you launch your company in York, you'll be just a few hours from New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh, but you'll have the benefit of this mid-sized city's lower cost of living and high quality of life. 

The startup spirit is alive and well in York, with resources like the Susquehanna SCORE Chapter, the Kutztown Small Business Development Center and York College of Pennsylvania's J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship. Plus, if you're planning to launch a product-driven business, you'll be in good company. York is a big manufacturing hub, with companies ranging from Snyder's of Hanover to Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations making their products here.

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Lancaster

Lancaster just might surprise you. Though it's perhaps best known for being in the heart of Amish Country, there's so much more to this mid-sized city. 

Lancaster continues to be affordable and holds on to its small-town charm while providing robust support and entrepreneurial resources. The Cultivate Lancaster Entrepreneurial Coalition is leading the charge, thanks to collaboration among 20 nonprofit, for-profit, government and educational institutions that are all dedicated to helping small businesses and startups succeed. Coworking and maker spaces like The Candy FactoryHingework and Pubforge make it easy to find your niche and build community with other innovators in Lancaster.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Kuta is an award-winning Colorado writer and editor. She regularly writes about travel, nature, education, personal finance and other topics.