THE AMERICAN UNDERGROUND’S IMPACT ON THE RESEARCH TRIANGLE

The tech hub assumes a bigger role in the regional economy.

Entrepreneurship hubs, like Atlanta Tech Village and Galvanize in Denver, are undeniably cool and generate a lot of buzz for cities, but what do they actually mean for local economies?

The American Underground in Durham, N.C., set out to quantify its impact in the Research Triangle. The Underground, which launched four years ago in the basement of the American Tobacco development, has grown to three locations and been named a Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hub.

(ID8 Nation wrote extensively about American Underground in its Research Triangle issue and shot this video.)

Here are the Underground’s numbers for Oct. 2013-Oct. 2014:

3 – No. of locations (two in Durham, one in Raleigh)
95,000 – Total square feet by February 2015
389 – Events held at the Underground
180 – No. of companies
680 – No. of employees (323 new jobs this year)
$40.5 million – Funding raised by affiliated companies (includes companies with HQ elsewhere)
$20.7 million – Funding raised by companies with HQ in the Underground
$674,700 – Money spent by Underground companies at downtown Durham and Raleigh businesses

The numbers show that the Underground companies are an integral part of the regional economy, said Chief Strategist Adam Klein.

“They’re not holed up; they’re active members of the community,” he said.

The sentiment was echoed by Durham Mayor Bill Bell in a prepared statement: “We’ve seen how the energy and creativity of our entrepreneurs have helped spur the renaissance of our downtowns. Now we can say with certainty that, just as importantly, the impact of the American Underground ecosystem has been a major contributor to the region’s economic success.”

The Underground has seen several members outgrow its space, including custom app developer Smashing Boxes, which has added offices in San Francisco and Montreal while keeping its headquarters in Durham, and Klein said he expects more to move on in 2015.

Another success story is Windsor Circle, which has raised more than $6 million and doubled in size to 30 employees since moving into the Underground. This year, the marketing software firm won the first Google for Entrepreneurs Demo Day competition.

“We feel an incredible amount of momentum going into next year,” Klein said. “We’re trying to do this in a way that really reflects well on our region.”

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