Five surprising places to find tech talent

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June 23, 2017

tech hubs

The war for talent is competitive. And in the world of tech, it’s downright fierce.

Particularly in powerhouse tech hubs like Silicon Valley and San Francisco, historically low unemployment levels have made it even more difficult for tech companies looking to hire.

While leveraged and expensive tech pools have created barriers to entry in traditional tech hubs, a few cities are emerging as unconventional but promising locations for tech companies. According to JLL research, key factors that shape an emerging tech hot spot include talent (specifically, concentration of tech jobs), real estate, affordability and overall ecosystem strength.

Here are five surprising places you’ll find teeming with tech talent and creating compelling cases for tech companies to locate.

Albany, New York

Thanks to a concerted effort to establish the “Tech Valley,” the Albany MSA has the second-highest concentration of computer programmers. Support from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute and a handful of Fortune 500 companies has created a vibrant tech ecosystem. An unemployment rate of 4.6 percent is a testament to a strong local economy but higher than the national average, signaling some availability in the talent pool.

Sacramento, California

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Sacramento is that it isn’t more widely accepted as a tech hub. Offering a lower cost of living than neighboring markets, Sacramento has become an attractive spillover market for talent. With a computer programmer pool at a median salary of $84,000 per year, Bay Area companies looking to expand an hour north could enjoy a 21 percent discount on wages.

Columbus, Ohio

Columbus is home to Ohio’s flagship university, The Ohio State University, and an impressive roster of corporate headquarters including Abercrombie & Fitch, PNC Financial, and Nationwide Insurance. Boasting a talent pool of about 11,000 computer programmers and 13,700 software developers, Columbus rivals tech hotbeds such as Austin, Texas. Adding to its tech potential, the city recently won the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City contest.

Colorado Springs, Colorado

While Denver and Boulder may be well-known for their tech sectors, their neighbor to the south has its own advantages for tech companies. Colorado Springs’ talent pool and average wages of software developers is virtually the same as Boulder’s but its cost for commercial office space is about half. The University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and a military-based economy contribute to the dynamic and stable local economy. Companies like Microchip Technology, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin have found a home here.

Madison, Wisconsin

Long viewed as a Midwestern mecca for creative types, Madison, Wisconsin, may well be one of the best kept tech secrets. The University of Wisconsin-Madison and innovation organizations like Sector67, a non-profit that’s dedicated to the development of the next generation of technology, have helped create a viable tech ecosystem. The city has the 10th highest concentration of software developers in the country relative to its size, while its wages are 40 percent lower than Silicon Valley.

What about Houston?

Although Houston has seen an increase in venture capital funding in recent years, the metro is still in its formative years when it comes to establishing itself as a tech hub. However, with prominent higher education institutions, a bedrock of medical technology, and recent efforts like the launch of the Innovation Strategy Office by the Greater Houston Partnership, Houston is positioned to drive tech demand.

For more on tech talent pools across the country, click here.

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