Where Business Congregates

Historically, businesses tend to locate where they have access to the support services they require—transportation facilities, port facilities, human capital, suppliers, distribution channels, customers, a strong human capital pool, et al.  Increasingly, however, as technology makes doing business easier, more and more businesses seek attractive communities where the cost of doing business and cost of living are affordable for their employees, where like enterprises can interact with each other, and where state and local governments provide enticements to locate, expand and stay.

Technology Clusters

The magazine Current Issues in Technology Management defined a technology cluster as: “a geographical concentration of related technology firms including competitors, suppliers, distributors, and customers; usually around scientific research centers and universities.” The concept probably began with the high concentration of hi-tech companies that located along Route 128, a partial beltway around Boston, and with what we know call “Silicon Valley,” the region just south of San Francisco Bay where thousands of hi-tech firms congregated.  In both cases, these were unplanned, serendipitous developments. However, this “chance” business model has now evolved into more formal, planned, intentional constructs in many different places around the country.

High-technology companies like to locate near one another so that they can trade knowledge and innovation, have access to the brainpower they need, and be able to take advantage of synergies that other companies and nearby universities can provide. Consequently, a powerful economic development impetus has been—and continues to be—the creation of “corridors” and “clusters” where a large number of tech firms are “incentivized” by public-sector economic development planners to flock together. States and municipalities that use this concept as a business attraction tool generally offer some kind of tax incentives, regulatory relief, subsidized training, and/or other enticements to get high-tech companies to locate, relocate, or expand within their locales.

What makes technology clusters interesting to attorneys is the following statistic: Each hi-tech job generates an average of five (5) additional jobs, including legal positions.

Some technology clusters specialize in a single industry, such as photonics, genetics, or air and space. Others are open to any kind of high-tech enterprise.

While many of these concentrations are located near large cities, some are more distant. Moreover, some tech clusters and corridors encompass such large geographic areas that they include nearby small towns as well as larger communities. A selection of high-tech clusters includes:

Southeast Michigan Advanced Energy Storage Systems Initiative
Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Center of East Tennessee
Greater Philadelphia Advanced Manufacturing Innovation and Skills Accelerator
Rochester Regional Optics, Photonics & Imaging Accelerator
Southern Arizona Aerospace and Defense Cluster
Kansas City Regional Jobs Accelerator
Defense Alliance of Minnesota
Rockford Region Aerospace Cluster
Huntsville Advanced Defense Technology Cluster
St. Louis Bioscience Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Project
Northeast Ohio Speed-to-Market Accelerator
Atlanta Health Information Technology Cluster
Carolinas’ Nuclear Cluster
New York Renewable Energy Cluster
Illinois Smart Grid Regional Innovation Cluster
Space Coast Cluster
Carolinas Photonics Consortium
Central New Jersey around Princeton
Colorado Convergence Corridor
Florida High-Tech Corridor
Idaho’s Eagle-Star Technology Corridor
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
West Virginia’s I-79 High Technology Corridor
Silicon Alley (New York City)
Austin Technology Incubator

Foreign Trade Zones

U.S. Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs) provide special customs procedures to U.S. plants engaged in international trade-related activities. Items processed in FTZs and then re-exported get duty-free treatment. Items destined for sale in the U.S. market are not subject to customs duties until they are brought out of the FTZ. This helps to offset customs advantages available to overseas producers who compete with U.S. firms. FTZs are regulated by the Foreign Trade Zones Board, http://ia.ita.doc.gov/ftzpage/ (which includes representatives from the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Treasury).

FTZs are, consequently, a type of industrial park in which a high concentration of businesses can be found, making them potentially interesting to attorneys seeking a solid client base.  There are more than 230 FTZs in the U.S., as well as more than 400 subzones.  They are found in every state.

Industrial, Business, and Office Parks

This category of business concentration is very popular throughout the United States. The distinguishing characteristic is that these parks are zoned and planned for particular types of development. Many small communities have established such parks, especially industrial parks.

Be warned, however, that in some towns, the initial enthusiasm for creating an industrial park wears off rather quickly when the community realizes that a considerable amount of monitoring and hands-on follow-up is required to make them successful. Nevertheless, where they are successful, bolstered by a proactive business attraction and economic development program, they provide a good platform for locating a law practice.

There are thousands of such parks around the country. Frequently, a municipality will have more than 100 such parks within its greater metropolitan area (Richmond, VA is a prime example).  A selection follows:

Arvida Park of Commerce, Boca Raton, FL
Bishop Ranch Business Park, San Ramon, CA
Denver, Business Park, CO
Eastman Business Park, Rochester, NY
Great Valley Corporate Center, Malvern, PA
Interstate 40 Business Park, Conover, NC
Midtown Centre, Jacksonville, FL
Newport Center, Newport Beach, CA
Raritan Center, Edison, NJ
Hauppauge Industrial Park, Long Island, NY

Last Word

Incorporating an examination and analysis of the places where business congregates should be an important part of your “locational” due diligence.  In so doing, you will expand your potential law practice options and improve your opportunities for a successful practice and career.