It’s a competitive world out there, and the pressure and exhilaration of change demands adjustments in business perspectives. Over the past few decades, the direction of rising lucrative industries has significantly shifted, making way for high-tech companies to claim the forefront of the economic atmosphere. Many industries that dominated past economies have since given way to significant technological advancements. That technology drives so much of modern commerce, and with innovation constantly providing new frontiers to be explored, the competition has been taken to a new level.

It’s not difficult to find innovation here in the US. It’s in every corner of the country; but when it comes to technology, certain corners stand out more than others. Armed with a fair amount of data and statistics from reputable sources, go.verizon has mapped out the metropolitan areas that are breaking new ground and leading the charge in reshaping industry as the world knows it.

Factors considered

So how does one determine what exactly qualifies as “innovative”? New patents are a good place to start, as patented technology is typically a fair indicator of new and exciting advancements in many different fields. The metro areas that have produced the most patents in correlation to their population were identified and sorted, referencing data provided by the US Census Bureau from the year 2015 (the most recent information available).

Number of patents: Determined using the US Patent and Trademark Office’s most current compilation of “Patenting in Technology Classes – Breakout by Origin” according to “US Metropolitan and Micropolitan Areas” from the years 2000-2015. This list consisted of about 2,000 patent grants.

Population: The population for each metro area was determined for the designated period of time with information provided by the US Census Bureau. No area’s population came to less than 88,000 residents; the highest reached over 4,000,000.  The number of patents per 10,000 residents of each metro area was then calculated and referenced to establish the top performers. Check out how each one is changing the economic landscape on a grand scale.

The top 10 metro areas

1 – San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

Is it any wonder that Silicon Valley itself tops this list? Fueled by dynamic industries (Google and Apple, anyone?), explosive growth, and the second-highest population of our top 10 metro areas, this piece of the Bay area has proven for many years to be an economic powerhouse. Most patents produced around here during the aforementioned time period were labeled under the class “Multiplex Communications,” which consists of methods of sending and receiving signals such as those from radio and mobile phones. As the cradle of entrepreneurs and startups—not to mention the fact that San Jose State, Stanford, and Santa Clara Universities constantly churn out bright new talent—economic growth continues to trend up, and the roll shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. And here’s an interesting tidbit: of all of the recently established tech companies, over 40% have at least one immigrant on their founding teams. The flourishing diversity in this region is proving itself to be a force for incredible innovation, with only more to come.

2 – Corvallis, OR

Hopping up one state to the Willamette Valley (and home to the world’s largest commercially sold hamburger) Corvallis snugly secures spot #2 and makes no apologies about it. Though it may have both the lowest population and number of patents, for a smaller city the patent-to-person ratio carries its own weight and relevancy within the scope of business innovation. The bulk of those patents deal with printing as a result of the resident HP headquarters, a major vein in the local workforce’s lifeblood. And the city isn’t looking at rescinding its runner-up status anytime soon—the Economic Development Office runs a website called “Yes Corvallis!” that attracts attention to creative jobs and industries, and nurtures the city’s growing economy. Local entrepreneurs are encouraged to take a bite outta that burger—it’s only going to get juicier.  

3 – Burlington-South Burlington, VT

When one thinks of metro areas crowned as captains of industry, western Vermont might not immediately come to mind. But what many would consider to be a couple of sleeper cities actually prove their salt against bigger metro spaces and populations, with semiconductor companies (such as Green Mountain Semiconductor and GlobalFoundries) providing a healthy climate for innovation and prosperity. After all, semiconductors function as key components in most electronic technology these days, so it’s a rather lucrative business field to have locked down. The area is no stranger to progressive movements, either—in 2015 Burlington became the first city in the United States to operate on renewable energy, so from the standpoint of cutting-edge advancements, a lot is expected from western Vermont in the years to come.

4 – Boulder, CO

Set against the picturesque Rocky Mountains and currently enjoying an economic growth spurt, Boulder sits comfortably at the median of both patents and population. The city is home to the University of Colorado, and industry leaders in the area’s economy include aerospace, bioscience, and IT, which is unsurprising considering the dominant patent class is “Dynamic Magnetic Information Storage and Retrieval.” Translation? The city is a hub for companies like Spectra Logic, which provides data storage for major corporations such as McDonald’s and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. And (also unsurprisingly) the outdoor recreation field contributes on an increasingly massive scale to the culture and vitality of local commerce, and continues to carve out a space for versatility in the future of enterprising innovation.   


5 – Boise City-Nampa, ID

Interestingly, this metro area is the only one among the top 10 where the population comes close to that of the two situated by the Bay (San Jose and San Fran). And it’s not called Treasure Valley for nothing—it’s the third-largest metro area in the Pacific Northwest, a feat in its own right, and is growing at a breakneck pace. Over the years farmland has given way to a distinct urban appeal and pacing, and with an established footing in the computer manufacturing and tech industries, more growth is expected. Boise is home to Micron, a company responsible for creating dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) computer chips for personal electronic devices. It’s one of only three companies in the world that specializes in DRAM, and the only one based domestically. Factor all of that into the city’s economic trajectory, and things are looking golden around these parts.

6 – Bremerton-Silverdale, WA

It may be surprising that the Puget Sound region would win a higher seat on the list than Seattle, but it makes sense considering the area is home to a major naval base, is a busy seaport, and has a profitable shipbuilding industry. The cluster of islands and peninsulas exudes a small-town maritime feel with a dedicated outdoor recreation community, but loses none of the fast-paced urban activity of a proper metropolitan area. “Database and File Management or File Structures” (a more technical way of describing data storage, access, and processing) wins the patent battlefront here, charging the economy with constant tech developments. Seattle may be just across the way, but Bremerton and Silverdale aren’t intimidated a bit.

7 – Rochester, MN

Reaching over to the far north along the banks of the Zumbro River, Rochester holds its own as a small but bustling metropolis. Showcasing a mid-sized population, the city is supported by a strong academic community thanks to the University of Minnesota Rochester and a booming health industry thanks to the Mayo Clinic headquarters. Also prevalent: computer manufacturing, led by the IBM Rochester campus. And when the most prevalent patent class is “Database and File Management,” it’s clear that this area contributes a lot to the advancement of computer technology. To make sure these advancements aren’t losing steam, Rochester has its own Office of Innovation to monitor and encourage business ventures, track economic trends, and promote the community’s growth and success.

8 – Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA

Tucked in the Pajaro Valley where temperatures rarely dip below the 60s, the beachfront quality of life in the Santa Cruz-Watsonville metro area lends a sense of tranquility and fulfillment to residents. Prosperity runs deep here, and as far as industry leaders go, construction, agriculture, and manufacturing dominate. In addition to these trades, the University of California, Santa Cruz, provides a boost to the economic advantage throughout the two cities. Most patents established here deal with data transferring and communications, paving the way for technology to settle in among the current commerce contenders. So if that doesn’t speak to further opportunities emerging in the years to come, nothing will. Life’s more than a beach here—it’s an investment in a very promising future.

9 – Ann Arbor, MI

Ann Arbor channels some of the energy of the massive automobile manufacturing hub less than an hour away and makes its own mark in the field. So it stands to reason that a good portion of patents around this area would have something to do with “Vehicles, Navigation, and Relative Location.” And it’s only natural that the runner-up class, “Drug, Bio-Affecting and Body Treating Compositions,” is in direct correlation with the city’s well-established and lucrative biotechnology and health industries. So what’s next for Ann Arbor? A continuing focus on entrepreneurship, bolstered by the University of Michigan, and growth in website development and online media and tech companies. Not too shabby.

10 – San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA

Coming full circle to the other end of the Bay, the San Fran metro area closes the top 10 out with panache, as only it can. Innovation around these parts remains some of the farthest-reaching, longest-lasting, and most significant in the country, and at an economic growth rate of over 4% per year, that probably won’t change. Most would guess (correctly) that financial institutions, venture capitalism, and tech companies comprise a good portion of the economy, but what many don’t realize is that this metro area actually has a booming biotech enterprise. In fact, 40% of the global biotech industry calls the Bay area home, and the dominant patent class is “Drug, Bio-Affecting and Body Treating Compositions.” Pair that with a unique culture and people and a drive for success by these cities’ inhabitants, and you have a recipe for progress in any field.

The top 50 metro areas

  1.      San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  2.      Corvallis, OR
  3.      Burlington-South Burlington, VT
  4.      Boulder, CO
  5.      Boise City-Nampa, ID
  6.      Bremerton-Silverdale, WA
  7.      Rochester, MN
  8.      Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA
  9.      Ann Arbor, MI
  10.   San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA
  11.   Rochester, NY
  12.   Fort Collins-Loveland, CO
  13.   Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX
  14.   Ithaca, NY
  15.   Trenton-Ewing, NJ
  16.   San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA
  17.   Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH
  18.   Raleigh-Cary, NC
  19.   Durham-Chapel Hill, NC
  20.   Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY
  21.   Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
  22.   Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
  23.   Manchester-Nashua, NH
  24.   Oshkosh-Neenah, WI
  25.   Greeley, CO
  26.   Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA
  27.   Elmira, NY
  28.   Ames, IA
  29.   Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
  30.   Binghamton, NY
  31.   Columbus, IN
  32.   Kokomo, IN
  33.   Appleton, WI
  34.   Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA
  35.   Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA
  36.   Peoria, IL
  37.   Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL
  38.   Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI
  39.   Cedar Rapids, IA
  40.   Madison, WI
  41.   Worcester, MA
  42.   Norwich-New London, CT
  43.   Akron, OH
  44.   Lafayette, IN
  45.   Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
  46.   Reno-Sparks, NV
  47.   Champaign-Urbana, IL
  48.   Niles-Benton Harbor, MI
  49.   New Haven-Milford, CT
  50.   Tucson, AZ

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