Access to talent is everything in the fast-moving tech world. Not much separates Silicon Valley from any other cluster of sunny California cities, other than the innovative people who live and work there. But, as the tech sector continues to grow by leaps and bounds, so does the list of places gathering momentum.
Last year, U.S. tech employment grew by almost 3 percent to nearly 7 million workers, according to research by CompTIA. That brings the sector to an estimated 8 percent of the nation’s economy. With so much employment growth, it’s only natural that tech leaders and entrepreneurs are looking outside the traditional industry locations in search of new pools of highly concentrated talent.
From Albany to Sacramento, new industry hot spots are emerging in the United States, according to JLL’s new report, Cracking the Hardest Code: Where to Find Tech Talent. By analyzing technology employment and real estate data, JLL researchers uncovered a number of “hidden gem” markets boasting the desirable combination of talent, available and affordable real estate, and overall ecosystem strength.
JLL found that the number of tech jobs in a given market is not nearly as important as the concentration of jobs. That is, greater New York City has the most computer programmers and software developers of any U.S. market, but Silicon Valley has more as a percentage of the general population. You don’t have to look at the data to know that Silicon Valley has the stronger technology ecosystem.
Meet the Hidden Gems in Tech Real Estate
A high concentration of tech workers indicates strong potential for recruitment, future job creation, and sustained momentum even through changing economic cycles. While primary hubs like Silicon Valley and Seattle still shine, these emerging markets are beginning to show their luster:
- Albany, New York. As a hub for the region’s “Tech Valley,” this capital city has one of the highest concentrations of computer programmers in the country, second only to Silicon Valley. And, thanks in part to an affordable cost of living, employers here attract quality computer programmers with an average salary of around $76,000 — in contrast to the average salary of $106,000 in Silicon Valley.
- Colorado Springs, Colorado. While Boulder and Denver may garner more attention for their bustling tech scenes, Colorado Springs has been quietly nurturing its own talent base and has become home to about as many software developers as Boulder.
- Columbus, Ohio. The Ohio State University and several major corporations help provide Columbus with a steady flow of talent — so much so that the city has become a magnet for computer programmers. Right now, about as many programmers live and work here as in Austin, Texas, but the lower cost of living means that Columbus wages are more favorable for employers.
- Madison, Wisconsin. There’s a reason industry titans have set up shop in this university town. Madison boasts the nation’s tenth-highest concentration of software developers in the country, with 9,000 in its population of 245,000. Innovation is also more affordable here, considering that wages are 40 percent lower than in Silicon Valley.
- Sacramento, California. Silicon Valley and San Francisco tech pros have been finding a happy respite from exorbitant housing costs by migrating just 90 miles northeast to Sacramento. The city’s programmer base has grown to 11,000, with wages roughly 20 percent lower than in the Bay Area.
Tech talent is on the move, and so are the companies that depend on it. As concentration of talent emerges as a key marker of ecosystem potential, expect to see even more industry momentum in these hidden gems.
Steffen Kammerer is Senior Vice President and leader of JLL’s Technology group for JLL Americas