Everyone knows where all the big centers for high-tech jobs are in North America – the San Francisco Bay area, New York and Boston all come to mind. However, you find high-tech growth in some of the most surprising places – places that you would never associate with dynamic start-ups and technology giants. If you are looking for somewhere you can really grow your high tech career without paying the sky high prices in these technology behemoths, then there are lots of other options.
One surprising tech center is St. Louis, Missouri. You might not believe it, but this is now the fastest growing city in the country when it comes to high-tech jobs. In fact, the growth has been going on for several years now, but it’s hit the headlines in recent months, with the Wall Street Journal adding to the growing buzz around the city’s start-ups scene as recently as September. The average tech salary in the Gateway City is around $81,000, and there are more jobs than high-tech workers there at the moment, so it’s a great place for anyone looking to turbocharge their high-tech career. Just down the road, Sprint has its headquarters in Kansas City, which was also the first place in the nation where Google Fiber was rolled out. So, it’s safe to say that there are lots of engineering jobs in Kansas City as well.
Interesting things are also happening across the border in Canada. Did you know that French-speaking Montreal is building a real reputation for itself in the high-tech sector? The city has always been a telecommunications hub, with big companies such as Ericsson as well as lots of feisty start-ups. However, where the city is really excelling is in video game development – no less than 7000 people work in the video game industry there, making it the third largest development hub for video game development, behind San Francisco and Japan. In fact, Ubisoft, the French video game giant known for titles such as Assassin’s Creed, has just announced major expansion plans there, adding to the 3000 people that it already employs in the city. The cost of living in the city is much lower than most other urban areas in North America, and its offers a unique and stimulating lifestyle that blends both a North American and a European ethos.
You probably associate Des Moines, Iowa with farming, but it is perhaps one of the most unexpected cities for tech innovation. There have been a number of notable start-ups in the city over the last number of years, including Dwolla, an online payment network that has attracted capital from top investors and even celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher. There is also Tickly, an online ticket agent that is starting to take market share from established players such as Ticketmaster. There’s also a vibrant business incubator culture, with players like Startup City, The Iowa Startup Alliance, and Foundry Co-working. One of the attractions is the overall cost of doing business in Des Moines, which is 16% below the national average. The environment is great for high-tech workers as well – Forbes ranked the city number one in the United States on its list of Best Cities for Young Professionals.
Rochester is perhaps best known as the home of Kodak, the imaging giant that fell victim to the demise of film. However, what is less well known is that it’s one of the biggest tech centers in the United States when you look at tech jobs per capita. There are nearly 66,000 tech workers in the city of 720,000, putting it on a par with places like San Francisco and San Diego when it comes to the percentage of the population working in technology industries. Part of the success of the city is due to the strength of its educational institutions – the University of Rochester and the Rochester Institute of Technology. Between the two of them, they conduct approximately half a billion dollars of research each year, and provide a steady stream of skilled graduates to fuel the tech economy in the area. This innovation is evident in the number of patents that come out of the city – Forbes recently ranked it 5th in the United States for patents per capita. Aside from software and electronics, the city is also strong in biotechnology and alternative energy. For example, Cerion Energy produces nanotechnology-based fuel additives that reduce emissions and fuel consumption, and LocalizedTherapeutics.com is developing laser-controlled technology that can turn on and off gene therapy drugs.