Can Dayton get its geek on?

Back in January 2007 (yeah, I’m a bit behind on my reading) Wired magazine had a spread on “Best Geek Cities.”

Pittsburgh made it- nothing in Ohio did. We talk about building “Tech town” for a decade- but are totally missing the factors that make Geeks want to invest their social capital in our city. Here are the factors that Wired used:

Wired 15.01: 10 Top Tech Towns

Wired assessed the geek cred of more than 30 major US cities by crunching the following numbers:

  • Proximity to top-ranked engineering schools
  • Tech jobs, per capita, on Dice
  • Personal ads, per capita, on Geek 2 Geek
  • Craigslist postings per capita
  • Number of attendees at local meetings of dorkbot, a group for “people doing strange things with electricity” (hey, we have a chapter!)
  • Availability of free Wi-Fi
  • Comic book stores per capita
  • Circuit City stores per capita

So, instead of building tech town- maybe we should all join the local chapter of dorkbot, expand free Wi-Fi (and maybe think about jumping up to something faster than DSL or Cable like the rest of the industrialized world), give tax abatements to Comic shops- and start posting more on Craigslist (it’s free after all).

Sounds a lot easier than what we’ve been doing so far.

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27 Comments on "Can Dayton get its geek on?"

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This is a great entry. I came across that article just last week and had the same general reaction. I’m not against “tech town” because it is an urban version of the “research park” idea which is what many companies are looking for and will do some good for that area of the city. You’re right though, there are a lot of ways to increase Dayton’s tech infrastructure and community without many years and spending millions of dollars.

I’m also not sure those in charge of Tech Town’s development realize that “geeks” are their target clientele. If someone was keen enough to see the correlation, Dayton wouldn’t have any trouble filling Tech Town or having a more vibrant tech community.

David Esrati
David Esrati

Michael, this is where things like SportsPlex, FiveRivers Outdoors and the Whitewater park, and a 100% occupied Oregon District business strip make a huge difference.
Tech follows talent- bricks and mortar make no difference.


Dayton is geek. It’s just not the Wired kind of geek.

The wierd and wonderfull geeky things that happen here are connected to the defense community, which is a different kind of geekscene, than that hipster/geek nexus Wired is riffing on

I notice Northern Virginia didn’t make that list. Thats where DARPA is at. Or Colorado Springs. AIr Force Academy, Space Command, and NORAD.

All quite geeky.


Did you know the highly publicized project to make free wi-fi available to the whole city of Dayton has stalled? After experimenting with free downtown green-space wi-fi in 2005, last August the city awarded the project to Harborlink with an anticipated contract presentation date to the Commission of September 2006. Service possibly being available by the end of that very month, according to a 9/6/2006 DDN article.

I haven’t tried lately so I don’t know if the downtown experiment is totally dead in the water or not, but here it is a year later. I know that at least some of the existing hotlinks in the downtown area have gone dead and are not being replaced until the contract is settled. So not only are they behind, they’re moving backwards.

And of course, no media follow-up by the DDN, who if I remember correctly, was the chief advertising sponser of this access project.

David Esrati
David Esrati

Hi Valerie,
I didn’t think it was that highly publicized- and wasn’t sure it was going through.
I doubt the DDN had much interest in selling the Harbornet ads.
It was still standard speeds- nothing amazing.
But- thanks for the update- I’ll dig into this more when I have time.


The top 10 are real cities – that have A LOT of other things besides Tech stuff. Tech does follow talent, and D-town lacks not only talent but lacks leadership to get small stuff done. Tech Town seems like a great idea, but who really is going to support it. Nobody really supports Downtown (or Dayton for that matter) as is – real chanage is needed to make Dayton a Tech/Geek town (which is the future) It seems that most businesses of any real size locate outside of Dayton and downtown- and while small businesses are great, anchor businesses with money are need for immediate change and real development. Attracting other bigger/mid-size businesses will help spin off smaller businesses. A bunch of small business who don’t unite and are lone rangers (see Oregon District) really acomplish little. We need to start thinking BIGGER, FASTER. We are losing shit to other cities and nobody really has the ability, leadership or skills to get innovative people to Dayton or develop and keep the few that are here now. DAVID, why don’t you run for mayor? Our mayor is a complete and total joke – you know it, and so does everyone that reads this blog – and so is everyone else involved in the development of Dayton. Please, David, get motivated again to bring REAL leadership, not the round/square outlook we get from our genius mayor. She is what represents Dayton, and my “not from Dayton” friends laugh their ass off every time they see our leader.

David Esrati
David Esrati

I’m not running without party support- so if you want to see it happen- get the local dems to wake up.
Unfortunately this fall Dean Lovelace and Matt Joseph are running unopposed.
More of the same.
I keep floating ideas here- maybe soon- someone will start paying attention.

D. Greene

Dayton has a huge underground geek community, but mostly centered around videogames, comic books, Magic Cards, and Dungeons and Dragons. Geeks are just hobbyists who spend their money on the things I just listed.

What you are really looking for is techies with four year degrees, not geeks. They may also be geeks which is also all well and good. Techies want an area with good cultural amenities (we have those in my opinion), good broadband, and an active technology sector (we really do have a lot of this too, we just don’t advertise it well).

David Esrati
David Esrati

So D. Greene,
The question is how do we get our underground geeks to rise in stature. We’ve got a good music scene too- not like Nashville or Austin- but, with some work- we could…
it’s all about building on strengths.
Hell- we host the ultimate geek convention once a year- HamVention…

J.R. Locke

Good music scene that has lost most of its clubs to play in.

Jeffrey makes a good point about what type of geeks we have here. Dayton doesn’t have that many trendy, boutique coffee drinking, you tube posting folk just a lot of engineers interested in planes and things that go boom. Most of the other geeks are the unemployed kind or those working minimal skill clerk jobs at Family Video, their big dream getting hired to work at The Bookery in Fairborn.

D. Greene

The things above that I mentioned are probably more important in this order for geeks looking to relocate or more importantly, to stay in Dayton, because we suffer brain drain when our people go to WSU and get a comp sci degree and then leave Ohio and never look back. Here are those things again, in order of priority.:

1) tech sector
2) geek culture and other cultural amenities
3) exceptional broadband

I consider myself a geek, but I can’t speak for others as to what they want. I’ll bounce it off of my friends and see what they come up with.


Is the music scene here really that good? We tell ourselves that, but good compared to what? Lima or Fort Wayne?

David Esrati
David Esrati

Jeff: Breeders, Guided By Voices, David Poe, Hawthorne Heights, not bad for a small town.
There are more…
and I’m not even digging back to Ohio Players, Roger and Zapp.


OLD HAT……… on the music sceen. Once the good drugs were headed elsewhere, so did the music scene. And you refer to Dayton as a small town, ahhhhhhhh , are not you going to make it better, and slightly bigger. You tell us to Dayton should focus on what it does best, which therefore would include importing r’necks, promtin’ meth, and not being able to get a job while wearing a BIG FUNNY hat and not leading. Wait, I forgot to mention crappy drugs.

Lead us to a better place, past stuff is dead. Like “our music scene.” Forward….. enough with O and W, we need NEW…… and NOW.


I have always loved Bill Hicks.


It seems to me that Dayton has much bigger problems than trying to attract the ‘geek’ crowd.

David Esrati
David Esrati

Dang, Brent, that’s so insightful….
Got any pearls of wisdom to share?
Or some answers to our problems?


Attracting “geeks” will bring educated people to our town, or keep them here to begin with….. people who actually work, and PRODUCE – we have a lot of problems, but I guarantee that if we could ship out 5000 bums/NON-employable/drug losers and replace them with only 3000 geeks the city of Dayton would be headed in a better direction………less crime, innovative, creative, educated people, how horrible Brent.


I don’t think that ‘shipping out’ the ‘problem’ segment of society is a realistic or desirable goal. That segment is a symptom of deeper problems, not the problem itself. Why is Dayton so segregated, not only by race but lifestlye and belief systems? Why are sarcasm and cynicism so common? There is a deep current of self hatred and bitterness in this city, and a few wi-fi spots won’t fix that. What is the use of attracting these new people when they see what Dayton is and decide to leave for greener pastures? The solution must come from within, it is no use painting our walls white when the wood is rotting from the inside.

David Esrati
David Esrati

The segregation issue is very real- and so is the lack of pride.
Our local leadership doesn’t understand how divided we’ve become.
This is one of the reasons I keep pushing for a single Sportsplex- in the heart of the city- not one east side and one west size.
We can fix this- but first, as always- we need to talk about it more.


I’d add “passive-agressive” to the local character traits that Brent lists.

D. Greene

I think part of what Brent is getting at is that the area needs to be appealing to move into in general, regardless of how we classify people. There are a lot of positives to Dayton, but to outsiders, most of what they see is the negatives.

Bruce Kettelle

D. Greene how do you know how outsiders see us? I would like to see some of those interviews.

I agree we need to seek the geek! First off they of course want jobs then all the other stuff. When I lived in Boston MA it seemed that many of the young start-ups were hatched by students and professors at the 55 area colleges. Having easy convenient access to affordable incubators around UD, Wright State, and even Sinclair could be a good first step. There is planty of available (empty) space near UD, wire it up and let em in!

D. Greene

Yes, I have discussed Dayton on several technology websites with lots of people, and their opinions of Dayton and Ohio are almost uniformly 100% negative.

Bruce Kettelle

“their opinions of Dayton and Ohio are almost uniformly 100% negative”

Interesting, I would have thought that Columbus would have received a few accolades.