Austin, Houston creating more tech jobs than Silicon Valley

Joel Kotkin:
With the social media frenzy at a fever pitch, people may be excused for thinking that Silicon Valley is still the main engine for growth in the technology sector. But a close look at employment data over time shows that tech jobs are dispersing beyond the Valley and its much-celebrated urban annex of San Francisco.

We turned to Mark Schill, research director at Praxis Strategy Group, to analyze job creation trends in the nation’s 52 largest metropolitan areas from 2001 to 2013, a period that extends from the bust of the last tech expansion to the flowering of the current one. He looked at employment in the industries we normally associate with technology, such as software, engineering and computer programming services. He also analyzed the numbers of workers in other industries who are classified as being in STEM occupations (science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related jobs). This captures the many tech workers who are employed in businesses that at first glance may not seem to have anything to do with technology at all. For instance just 8% of the nation’s 620,000 software application developers work at software firms — the vast majority are employed in industries as disparate as manufacturing, finance, and business services.

The four metro areas that have generated tech jobs at the fastest pace over the past 12 years are far outside the Bay Area, in the southern half of the country, in places with lower costs of living and generally friendly business climates. In first place: Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Texas, where tech companies have expanded employment by 41% since 2001 and the number of STEM workers has risen by 17% over the same period. Looking at the near-term, 2010-13, the Austin metro area also ranks first in the nation.

The keys to Austin’s success lies largely in its affordability and high quality of life, both in its small urban core and rapidly expanding suburbs. Best known as the hometown of Dell, a host of West Coast tech titans have set up shop there in recent years, including AMD, IBM, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Oracle.

Much the same can be said about Austin’s East Coast doppelganger, Raleigh-Cary, N.C., which ranks second on our list. Like Austin, Raleigh-Cary is a big college metro area, and also hosts the state capital, something that tends to lessen wild swings during industry downturns. Like Austin, Raleigh is not a primary center of the social media boom, but it has registered a 54.7% increase in tech sector employment since 2001 and an impressive 24.6% rise in STEM jobs. Much of the growth comes from global companies such as IBM,GSK, Syngenta, RTI International, Credit Suisse, and Cisco.

The next two spots go to two surprising metro areas with a less than stellar degree of tech cred: Houston-Sugarland-Baytown, Texas, and Nashville-Franklin-Murfreesboro, Tenn. Not much of a role for social media here, but STEM employment has expanded 24% in Houston since 2001 thanks to boom times for the increasingly technology-intensive energy industry. The Houston metro area ranks second only to Silicon Valley in the proportion of engineers in its workforce.
Silicon Valley appears to be in the same decline as much of the rest of California.  I blame high taxes and regulation making it a less competitive environment.  They are probably upset with Texas for not raising taxes rather than looking at their own mistakes.   The growth around Austin is more visible than that of Houston which was already a huge metropolitan area.


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