Corvallis has become the research capital of the Pacific Northwest in spite of a pretty big obstacle: its location. Drive 15 minutes west and you’re mountain biking Marys Peak in the Coast Range. An hour west and you’re kayaking the Pacific. If the mood hits, you can even drop a canoe in the slow-flowing Willamette River, which runs nearby. “We’re central to so much, it’s insane,” says self-employed graphic designer Jeff Jimerson, 32. “Even Portland is just a 90-minute drive.” Last year, Jimerson started the Madison Avenue Collective (MAC), a shared office space for Corvallis’s growing number of freelancers and contractors. He wanted a career “support system.” He got some biking buddies. “We have so many people in the creative and tech industries,” he says. “All I had to do was put an ad on Craigslist. The response was overwhelming.”
Ever since Oregon State University was founded as a land grant school in 1868, this redbrick town in Oregon’s wine country has drawn engineering types with a soft spot for the outdoors. Fittingly enough, the year’s biggest event is an open-air science festival. Held each July, the da Vinci Days are an unabashedly geeky affair featuring a “kinetic sculpture race” of homemade, all-terrain works of art. The rest of the year, OSU and Hewlett-Packard employees pedal to work on an astounding 60 miles of paths across a tidy downtown grid with 2,000 acres of green space (the city has the country’s ninth highest percentage of bike commuters). The cubicle-averse, meanwhile, meet up with their “support system” at a Wi-Fi hotspot like the Sunnyside Up café and schedule their flextime—paddling trips on the McKenzie River, trail hikes in the Cascades or Coast Range, or out-of-bounds runs at Hoodoo Ski Area (hoodoo.com). Not that their bosses will ever know.
$300,000 buys: A three-bedroom house with woodland views, just a five-minute drive to Bald Hill park.
Job market: Those who don’t punch time cards at OSU or the Hewlett-Packard campus likely work from home—in a tech-related field, more often than not.
Know before you go: One in three people who stop by the Corvallis Visitor Center is looking to relocate.
BY THE NUMBERS:
14: Free high-speed Wi-Fi spots downtown
100: Gigawatt hours of green power Corvallis buys a year—more than any other city in the country
31: Separate hiking trails with a Corvallis zip code
Don’t underestimate how plugged-in a tiny Blue Ridge Mountain town can be. As far back as a decade ago, nearly 90 percent of Blacksburg’s locals were connected to the Internet, making it the world’s most wired place (seriously). Virginia Tech, on the fringe of downtown, has a lot to do with it. There’s easy high-speed access for Skyping to corporate HQ from your home office—as long as you remember to actually work between biking the Blue Ridge Parkway, hiking the Appalachian Trail, and floating the New River.
A few years ago, Silicon Valley transplants invaded this old railroad depot, lured by easy access to Lake Tahoe and the Sierras and by the quick, three-hour drive time from the Bay Area. Now they’ve vanished as quickly as their portfolios, leaving only their magnificent homes outside of town—for sale at 50 cents on the dollar—and sterling broadband access.