Florida Tech Talent Explosion?

Meditation of the Month - published on

Group of multi ethnic business people at work

CBRE Research’s “2017 Scoring Tech Talent” report sheds light on the Sunshine State’s emerging innovation economy. Despite failing to place any metropolitan markets among the nation’s Top 25, five Florida metros appear in the top 11 spots for fastest five-year growth rates (2011 – 2016) among the “small tech talent markets”:

Overall rank #27: Tampa | 5-Yr growth ranking and (rate): #2 (55.3%)
Overall rank #32: Orlando | 5-Yr growth ranking and (rate): #7 (45.0%)
Overall rank #42: Fort Lauderdale | 5-Yr growth ranking and (rate): #11 (37.2%)
Overall rank #48: Miami | 5-Yr growth ranking and (rate): #4 (46.8%)
Overall rank #49: Jacksonville | 5-Yr growth ranking and (rate): #10 (41.0%)

The CBRE report applies 13 metrics to rank the 50 largest tech markets “according to their competitive advantages and appeal to tech employers and tech talent.” Four occupation categories, embedded within multiple industries, define tech talent:

1. Software developers and programmers
2. Computer support, database and systems
3. Technology and engineering related
4. Computer and information system managers

Among the insights of particular interest to Florida’s economic developers is the degree to which the markets appear to be importers of tech talent. Comparing tech jobs added (2012 – 2016) to tech degrees produced (2011 – 2015), the brain gain* is considerable, particularly in Tampa which created 10,332 more tech jobs than it produced local tech degrees in the most recent five years.

Tampa (degrees/jobs created): 5,808 / 16,140
Miami/Fort Lauderdale: 9,817 / 13,770
Jacksonville: 1,612 / 5,530
Orlando: 8,806 / 10,960

Of course, these ratios reflect a complex dynamic of an area’s ability to attract talent and the production volume of its local educational institutions.

The CBRE report also shares detail on cost drivers for the five Florida metros. Fort Lauderdale ranked 33rd most expensive market for businesses based on estimated wages and commercial rent with Orlando (37th), Miami (39th), Tampa (42nd), and Jacksonville (43rd) clustering tightly together.

When it comes to money, Jacksonville leads in wage growth among the five Florida cities with 19% gains over the past five years. Fort Lauderdale followed at 15% trailed closely by Orlando at 13%. Tampa and Miami realized single digit gains during the same period at 6% and 2%, respectively.

What should you be thinking about? Our meditation for August highlights the importance of talent and the dangers of low-cost positioning as a primary strategic advantage. A national perspective makes this more clear. We need only point to the Bay Area, New York, Seattle, and Washington D.C. as the top four tech-talent markets in terms of concentration and continued growth even while challenging employers with the highest wage/rent costs.

With apologies for the tease, you’ll find no prescription for a magic elixir here. However, the CBRE report underscores the need to fully explore your region’s unique talent dynamic as the basis for crafting an innovation-economy recipe. Start with an analysis of your talent trends in the past five years. If your tech-talent mix isn’t improving, then it’s a good bet neither is your regional economy.


*NOTE: Brain gain and drain as a stand-alone metric taken as an economic development objective is dangerous, if not silly (to be addressed in a forthcoming post). However, here the term is taken as a useful variable reflecting labor market dynamics.