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America's Top 25 High-Tech Hotspots

In today's knowledge economy, high-tech firms and high-paying, high-tech jobs are key factors in economic growth and prosperity. Some economists have estimated that every high-tech job creates an additional five or so spinoff jobs, a significant ripple effect through the economy.

A new analysis by Michael Mandel of the Progressive Policy Institute identifies 25 leading locations for high-tech information jobs. While much research on high-tech meccas looks at the metro level, Mandel's study identifies the concentration of high-tech jobs by county, which offers a closer look at clustering and agglomeration.

The map below, by the Martin Prosperity Institute's Zara Matheson, shows the 25 leading counties on Mandel's "Tech/info Jobs Index." This metric looks at what Mandel has identified as the "tech/information" sector, a broader definition that acknowledges the huge number of digital and tech jobs in more traditional industries like film, news, publishing, and telecommunications. The Index measures the number of new jobs in this sector created between 2007 and 2012, calculated as a share of total private sector employment in 2007. An index of 1 means that new tech employment represents 1 percent of total employment levels. (The full table is available at the bottom of this post). 

This list goes beyond the usual suspects. Sure, there is a substantial cluster in and around the Silicon Valley and the broader San Francisco Bay Area. But, interestingly, San Francisco County (that is the city of San Francisco) tops the list, besting both Santa Clara County, the traditional heart of Silicon Valley, and more suburban San Mateo county. Its 50 percent growth rate in tech-info jobs since 2007 was the highest of any county on the list.

Two New York boroughs also number among the top 25 high tech hotspots: Manhattan (New York County) and Brooklyn (Kings County), which rank 14th and 25th respectively. Brooklyn, in particular, has seen a high rate of high tech job growth. Other familiar tech hubs like Seattle (King County) Washington;  Boston-Cambridge (Suffolk and Middlesex counties) Massachusetts; Austin (Travis County) Texas; Raleigh (Wake County) North Carolina; and Huntsville (Madison County) Alabama make the list as well.

It also reflects the rise of college towns like Ann Arbor (Washtenaw County) Michigan; Madison (Dane County) Wisconsin; and Lexington (Fayette County) Kentucky. Some unexpected counties also crop up. New Orleans (Orleans Parish) ranks 13th, with a 32.9 percent rate of growth in high tech jobs since 2007. Denton County, Texas, north of Dallas, ranks sixth. Denton is a suburb with a bohemian feel; there's a vibrant music scene, an annual Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, and the University of North Texas's flagship campus.

The map reflects the shift of high-tech industry and jobs from just a few suburban nerdistans — like Silicon Valley and the Boston suburbs — to more urban locations and college towns. The map is still spiky, but the range of places where tech matters is substantially different than it was  just a decade or two ago.

The full ranking of counties by PPI index is below. Savvy readers will recognize that this list includes more cities than Mandel's last ranking, which I wrote about on Cities a few weeks ago. In this analysis, Mandel included counties with populations as low as 300,000 residents, while in his New York Tech report he included only those with populations over 800,000.

Richard Florida is Co-Founder and Editor at Large at The Atlantic Cities. He's also a Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, and Global Research Professor at New York University. He is a frequent speaker to communities, business and professional organizations, and founder of the Creative Class Group, whose current client list can be found here. All posts »

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