Where can I hire lower cost software developers in the US?
February 15, 2008 12:26 PM   Subscribe

What small cities are there in the U.S. where I can recruit software developers at lower costs?

I am trying to convince my boss to let me hire some developers here is the U.S. as an alternative to adding resources to my team in India. For once in my 4 years managing dev teams in India I finally have a group of guys who are really good, but no matter how good, with India I cannot be agile enough to accomplish what I need to do in the amount of time I have. Managing India is a very time consuming process for me, days are lost on small issues due to the time differences and communication will never be as fluid and clear as it would be with people here in my own time zone. Things take forever. In short, what I gain in cost savings I lose in productivity, project management and speed.

I want to recruit entry level developers to work from home in their own cities. I have heard that Portland, Oregon is one such place where there is a resource pool of talented people where cost of living and expectations are such that you could hire people for much less than if you were to hire them in New York City for example.

I would prefer to find a place on the east coast, does anyone know of any examples of places that fit my criteria? I was wondering if Burlington, VT would be one such comparable place but thats just a guess. Perhaps small cities in the midwest or south? Not sure.

(Sales guys: Please don't pitch me your body shop consulting company promising india prices and US project managers. )

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
posted by postergeist to Technology (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You'd need to look at places where cost of living is relatively low still. Having lived in the North East, I would definitely say NH, VT and Maine are good bets. NH is nice because there's no state tax, and there's a tech corridor that goes through it.

You might also, perhaps, find technical people in Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia all of which have low costs of living, if you're willing to hit CST.
posted by finitejest at 12:32 PM on February 15, 2008

Providence, Rhode Island, perhaps. Although I've heard it has become something of a bedroom community for Boston recently, (?!) the cost of living all of the years I was there was quite low. Many of my friends from Provy worked as off-site developers.
posted by stagewhisper at 12:37 PM on February 15, 2008

Look to the rust belt my friend. Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse New York. Detroit, Ann Arbor. Cleveland. The cost of living is nothing compared to the rest of the country and there are people who need work there.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:38 PM on February 15, 2008

Austin has a big tech population, but I have no idea what going rates are.
posted by chrisamiller at 12:39 PM on February 15, 2008

If it were me I'd start with college towns with decent comp sci programs and lower cost of living. Some that come to mind: Pittsburgh (Carnegie Mellon), Rennselear NY (RPI), Champaign IL (U of I), Lafayette IN (Purdue). Take a look at the top 50 CS programs and see which meet your needs.
posted by true at 12:41 PM on February 15, 2008

Texas, too.
posted by waylaid at 12:42 PM on February 15, 2008

I would check Raleigh/RTP. (and here in Austin)
posted by nightwood at 12:42 PM on February 15, 2008

Waterloo, Ontario. Ottawa, Ontario. Toronto is probably as expensive as anywhere in the US these days. Maybe Montreal, Quebec.

Go near-shore. And hey, the US dollar can't go any lower (can it?) so it's all upside when the CDN sinks again.
posted by GuyZero at 12:52 PM on February 15, 2008

Where do I start? Craiglist(s)?
posted by postergeist at 1:02 PM on February 15, 2008

I'm originally from just outside of Nashua, NH. There's a big tech sector there. Also a few towns North in Manchester, NH, and just over the state line in Westford, MA. You'll find plenty of techies in this area. There are plenty of existing jobs there, but my friends in that industry are constantly either getting laid off or they're just looking for something better.

However, the cost of living is somewhat high out this way. I know some experienced developers making (low) six figures. I don't know if this is an industry norm, of if it's higher out here to match the cost of living. (And I don't know much about starting salaries in the industry, either.)

There are also plenty of tech schools in Massachusetts in particular. I have a few friends finishing up at WPI (Worcester), and they're all exceptionally bright people. I don't know what exists for jobs directly in Worcester, versus how many migrate out to Boston.
posted by fogster at 1:07 PM on February 15, 2008

North Dakota (Fargo) and Minnesota (Minneapolis) have a relatively low cost of living and an educated population.
posted by ejaned8 at 1:18 PM on February 15, 2008

anyone have any experience in Mexico?
posted by postergeist at 1:21 PM on February 15, 2008

In fact I'm being let go because our Seattle* company is hiring people in Frisco, TX.

*not MSFT
posted by herbaliser at 1:26 PM on February 15, 2008

Columbus, Ohio has a substantial pool of entry level programmers from multiple universities including the largest one in the country.

The cost of living is very low. Most Ohio State CS grads start at $40-$55K FWIW.
posted by doowod at 1:30 PM on February 15, 2008

Pretty much any mid-sized city between the coasts with a college or university.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:46 PM on February 15, 2008

Lots of good suggestions so far. In general, as Thorzdad said, combine low cost of living with a decently-sized university. And yes, Craigslist is as good as resource as any.

anyone have any experience in Mexico?

Unless your Spanish is way, way better than your Hindi, you probably aren't going to see significant benefits going south of the border. Plus, the educational culture of Mexico isn't focused towards technology the way it is in India.
posted by Nelsormensch at 1:50 PM on February 15, 2008

Not exactly an answer to your question: Costa Rica.

In a previous job, I dumped the contract team in India and replaced it with a team in Costa Rica. Due to the same time zone and cultural similarities, it was very much like working with another office in the US. It worked out VERY well for us.

Rates are competitive to India, possibly cheaper. Costa Rica is politically and socially stable, has two technical universities turning out competent people and already a decent sized outsourcing industry.

If you're interested in a specific contract company to contact there, send me MeFi mail.

Good luck!
posted by tippiedog at 1:52 PM on February 15, 2008

Oh, and all the guys we hired in Costa Rica spoke English well. In fact, I had fewer communications problems than I did with the more-or-less native English speakers in India.

Also, it's a short, cheap flight to Costa Rica and a nice place to visit (not that India may not be nice).
posted by tippiedog at 1:53 PM on February 15, 2008

Utah (especially Provo/Orem), Phoenix, maybe Boise, ID.
posted by trinity8-director at 2:14 PM on February 15, 2008

postergeistPoster: "Where do I start? Craiglist(s)?"

If your going for a college town, why not contact the placement offices. This is a good time of the year to pick up new graduates. They often have alumni placement services too so they could help you find more experienced programmers.
posted by octothorpe at 2:43 PM on February 15, 2008

Logan Utah has a highly educated populace because of Utah State University. Logan's high birthrate means there are lots of young people. Logan's provincial environment ensures that most of these young people haven't seriously thought about good jobs outside the valley. Utah, in general, is a gold mine. See also: Pocatello and Twin Falls, ID.
posted by Crotalus at 7:32 PM on February 15, 2008

Seconding my hometown of Cleveland, there are lots of developers and the pay rates here are fairly sucky compared to the rest of the country, so chances are whatever you're offering will be better. There are many colleges but not enough jobs, so lots of people leave the city every year (point taken about graduation coming up! a good chance to get your hands on new grads). I'm happy to point you to some appropriate contacts if you MeFi mail me.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:23 PM on February 15, 2008

Try St. Louis, Kansas City, or Columbia, MO.

Low cost of living. Lots of people looking for work. CST, but hey, what's an hour when you're used to India?
posted by Afroblanco at 1:08 AM on February 16, 2008

You can hire cheaper headcount in smaller cities, but you will not be able to decrease your total cost. Because the US has an open labor market, you should expect that a "low cost" developer will be, at best, proportionally less productive than a market-rate developer. (The same does not hold for India because of the limits the US places on immigration.) The fact that nearly all US software companies have development centers in places with high developer salaries (the Bay Area, Boston, etc.) strongly suggests that, for a fixed staffing budget, a few highly paid developers will outproduce a much larger group of "low cost" developers. As a consultant who has worked on projects throughout North America, this jibes with my own experience. One NYC trading-systems developer I know is manifestly more productive than a small-city bank's entire twenty-person programming staff. So what if he makes 10x what the small-city folks make?

(To those talking about low cost of living: a place with a low cost of living means that, in relative terms, people don't want to live there. You're hiring from a pool of people who, in the aggregate, are not productive or ambitious enough to live someplace nicer. That's not to say there aren't some people who could live elsewhere but choose not to, but it's a matter of finding those few people rather than hiring in a high-cost area where, because they live there, nearly everybody in the candidate pool has to be productive.)

There's also practical difficulties. Your whole plan depends on finding and retaining a person dumb enough not to know his or her own value but smart enough to write good software. Chances are, that person has already been recruited -- internship programs are essentially a way for companies to find gullible students and see which ones have valuable talents and skills, and the recruiting industry finds most of the rest -- so you're going to be stuck going through the dregs. Even if you eventually get a team that equals your Indian operation in efficiency set up, I suspect the same management issues will remain; off-site entry-level developers will require a lot of direct management no matter the time zone.
posted by backupjesus at 7:00 AM on February 16, 2008

a place with a low cost of living means that, in relative terms, people don't want to live there. You're hiring from a pool of people who, in the aggregate, are not productive or ambitious enough to live someplace nicer.

Yeah, I'll tell all the engineers here in Austin that they're here because they're not productive enough nor ambitious enough to live somewhere 'nicer'. Because no one with the choice would live in Austin instead of SF, Boston, or NYC.
posted by nightwood at 5:38 PM on February 17, 2008

Key word there is aggregate, nightwood. Plenty of engineers in Austin are productive enough to demand high wages (Austin is pretty close to the other cities you cite, software-salary-wise) and live whereever they want. However, the low end of the Austin market is going to be less productive than the low end in a higher-cost market because it takes less money to survive in Austin; a high cost of living weeds out less-productive resources.
posted by backupjesus at 8:34 AM on February 18, 2008

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