At the moment, the technology sector is the focus of a lot of attention — and with good reason. Tech industries have helped turn San Jose and Austin into major economies and brought other large metros, like Detroit, through tough spells. But which small, off-the-radar towns out there also deserve recognition as technology hubs?
To explore this question, we analyzed 70 high-tech occupations identified by BLS economist Daniel E. Hecker. The list includes everything from computer systems analysts to forest and conservation technicians. Many of the highlighted economies contain a strong contingent of one or two of these occupations, while other occupations may not be especially concentrated in the region.
In order to locate these economies, we had to explore some obscure parts of EMSI’s extensive database. For one thing, we removed cities with very large populations since many of them would come as no surprise. (We already know that Seattle, San Jose, and Austin are capitals of the tech sector.) Cities with very small numbers of tech workers were also cut from the list; if an influx of 10 tech workers could radically shift the economy, it can be hard to gauge whether or not the industry is really growing.
We chose to highlight MSAs that have 1,000-50,000 jobs in the industry, have grown by more than 10% since 2001 and more than 0% since 2010, and also have promising concentration (measured by location quotient, LQ). Another factor that we took into account is whether or not the industry grew during the recession (2007-09). After applying all these filters to our data, we chose 11 MSAs which have exhibited impressive growth but which have also, for the most part, sneaked under the radar.
The list starts with Los Alamos, N.M., and Williston, N.D., which have already gained attention for their growing economies. Then we’ll move from smallest to largest MSA, examining a key tech occupation in each.
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