Tech's New Hotbeds: Cities With Fastest Growth In STEM Jobs Are Far From Silicon Valley | Newgeography.com
"The conventional wisdom sees tech concentrating in a handful of places, many dense urban cores that offer the best jobs and draw talented young people. These places are seen as so powerful that, as The New York Times recently put it, they have little need to relate to other, less fashionable cities.
To a considerable extent, that was true – until it wasn’t. The most recent data on STEM jobs – in science, technology, engineering or mathematics – suggests that tech jobs, with some exceptions, are shifting to smaller, generally more affordable places."
If you build it, they will come. Until they stop.
The tech sectors high wages have long been a powerful attractant, but over the last few years, an increasing number of Silicon Valley's tech sector workers are wage slaves to the high housing prices of the area, or worse yet, homeless. This makes selling these jobs more difficult than it was just a decade or two ago.
What most people want is to live in a community where their income is about 20-25% more than the average. This makes everyone close but makes them the bigger fish in a small pond. Oddly, research shows people would prefer a pay cut to achieve this arrangement over living in a community where they were at the bottom of the pay scale. The tech world is insular so those at the bottom of the tech pay scale while much above others in the community, still acutely feel this differential. It is not surprising that some of these people would be willing to take jobs outside of Silicone Valley just to achieve this pay stratification.
"What we may be witnessing, in fact, is a third turning in the tech world. The initial phase, in the 1950s, was mostly suburban – dominated by the still-powerful Bay Area, Boston and Southern California – and was heavily tied to aerospace and defense. The second phase, now coming to a close, refocused tech growth in two hot spots, the Bay Area and Washington's Puget Sound, and largely involved social media, search and digital applications for business services.
The third tech turning, now in its infancy, promises greater dispersion to other markets, some with strong tech backgrounds, some with far less. In the last two years, according to numbers for the country’s 53 largest metros compiled by Praxis Strategy Group’s Mark Schill based on federal data and EMSI’s fourth-quarter 2017 data set, the STEM growth leader has been Orlando, at 8%, three times the national average. Next are San Francisco and Charlotte (each at 7%); Grand Rapids, Michigan (6%); and then Salt Lake City, Tampa, Seattle, Raleigh, Miami and Las Vegas (5%)."
I continue to wonder how the private space programs will change tech. I anticipate that space will start slow, but once it takes off, it could be significant. And big space would change everything.
"Silicon Valley, along with its urban annex, San Francisco, seems likely to remain the tech center for the foreseeable future. The area accounted for 44% of the country’s venture capital funding in 2014, according to a Brookings analysis of Pitchbook data, and the San Jose and San Francisco regions’ STEM employment – more than 440,000 jobs – is larger than that of greater New York, which has more than twice the population. The highest location quotient, essentially the percentage of STEM jobs per capita, can be found in the Valley – a remarkable 3.38 in 2017 – while the San Francisco area comes in at roughly half that rate, with an LQ of 1.76, just behind the figures for Seattle and Washington, DC.
But recently there have been signs that the tech sector’s growth in the region is slowing, despite the presence of Google, Facebook and Apple, three of the world’s most highly valued companies. From 2006 to 2016, the Valley saw a remarkable 33% growth rate in STEM jobs – roughly 3% per year. But in the last two years, that rate has fallen to 2% annually. In some recent months in parts of the Bay Area, The San Jose Mercury reports, the tech job count has actually declined."
Are these the first cracks as Nemesis groans to life?
"Cutbacks in H-1B visas could create labor shortages in particularly immigrant-dependent places like the Valley, where most tech workers are foreign born. To appeal more to domestic workers, tech giants will have to accommodate them in lower-cost places. Apple already has more than 6,000 employees in less costly Austin – roughly half the size of the company’s spaceship headquarters in Cupertino – including a hardware engineering division. The tech giant has very few openings in Southern California, but 10 times as many in Texas. Rapidly expanding Amazon is looking for a second headquarters, presumably in a lower-cost area, and has held many of its recent job fairs far from the West Coast. Google has been expanding most robustly in Colorado and Austin, as well as downtown San Jose. Facebook is expanding in lower-cost areas like Ohio.
So contrary to popular belief, growing dispersal, not consolidation, represents the future of STEM employment. Not every smaller city will win, but some may well become serious players in the tech game. As costs intrude and tech itself morphs, competition for STEM jobs will spread, and other regions will begin to impose themselves on the nation’s high-tech map."
Maybe. The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind ...