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Austin vs. Denver: Why the Colorado capital is gaining more millennials than any other city, including ours

Austin and Denver are both top destinations for millennials and Bay Area tech companies in search of something new. (Shutterstock, Pexels)

Austin isn't the only city attracting millennials and Bay Area tech companies with its outdoorsy profile, local breweries, progressive politics and Major League Soccer team. Denver, Colorado, has seen significant population growth in recent years and lures a similar crowd, including some Austinites in search of a change of scenery.


The two capital cities, 920 miles apart, have seen their populations grow more than 20% since 2010, according to census data. Both are top destinations among millennials, a recent SmartAsset analysis found, as well as the companies hoping to hire them. Despite Austin's steady population growth, Denver is the top out-of-state metro with a deficit migration flow, meaning more Austinites are moving to Denver than Denverites are moving here.

Megan Ivy, a broker with Denver-based Usaj Realty who was born and raised in Austin, often hears from people who are moving from Austin to Denver or vice versa. Perhaps even more common, however, is the person who is moving from a larger coastal city—San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York City—and is torn between the two options. "I get the comment all the time," she said. "'It's between Denver and Austin.'"

Twin cities

After the Great Recession, Colorado saw an economic diversification that spanned many industries, including aerospace, bioscience and digital communications. Starting around 2013, Denver began attracting Bay Area tech companies, which often opened a customer service or sales office. These companies quickly discovered that their employees in other departments wanted to move to Denver, which promised a higher quality of life and a lower cost of living. This trend continued during the pandemic, with some companies such as Marqeta and Salesforce opening new offices or expanding existing ones.

If this sounds similar to Austin's trajectory, that's because it is. Although the two cities have invested in different industries, there is some overlap. "I would say that we compete with Austin on a regular basis, predominantly for technology and financial services companies," said Sam Bailey, vice president of economic development at the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. "And it makes sense."

In the last decade or so, Austin and Denver have proven their value to prominent tech companies in search of a diversely skilled, millennial workforce, which is, in turn, drawn to the two cities because of their relative affordability, big city amenities and natural beauty.

(Graphic by Emma Freer)

Growing pains

Now the question is: Can the two cities keep this up? "I think what both communities share is this responsibility to focus on the future," Bailey said, citing housing affordability, mobility and equity as issues Austin and Denver must confront.

Ivy moved to Denver around a decade ago, following her now-wife, and immediately felt a vibe similar to Austin's. Both cities are neighborly, with a strong food-and-drink culture and family-friendly amenities. Due to their popularity, they are also facing similar housing challenges. "Our markets are insane," she said. "It's just incredibly competitive, very challenging, low inventory, skyrocketing prices."

But there are some key differences. Ivy thinks Denver has better weather—temperate, yet seasonal—and a more robust transit system, where Austin wins on live music and diversity. "Denver is very white," she said.

Ariel Hernandez is moving to Denver work his new job. (Ariel Hernandez)


Ariel Hernandez, 28, will be making the move from Austin to Denver later this month, where he has a new job at the DISH Network headquarters. "I think there are a lot of similarities between the two cities," he told Austonia. The Houston-born resident will miss his family, friends and Whataburger. But he's excited about the change. "I feel like I've done everything I needed to do," he said.

Popular

Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation


🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway