The 10 Best States for High Tech

And what states are best for high technology? Original stalwarts such as California, home of Silicon Valley, and Massachusetts, home of MIT and Boston’s Route 128, still reign to a great degree. But fast risers include previous technology afterthoughts such as Utah.

Indeed, the portability of digital-tech employment—as long as someone has Wi-Fi and a laptop, many such jobs can be literally anywhere, and can move quickly even en masse—means that a different dynamic is afoot in determining the best states for high tech compared with how to rank the best states for something that requires a large footprint, such as manufacturing, for example.

“As long as someone has Wi-Fi and a laptop, many such jobs can be literally anywhere, and can move quickly even en masse.”

Because tech employment is so liquid and mobile, states with the highest growth in technology jobs likely also are the “best” places for those jobs. It seems like a tautology, but it’s really only a self-reinforcing phenomenon.

On the other hand, the best states for manufacturing jobs are in part dictated by legacy investments—factories, tooling, workers, infrastructure, even unions—which would dictate a much slower evolution in where plants and facilities can locate even if they wanted to move.

Another factor that often separates fast-growing locales for tech jobs from states that, overall, are good for business, is the fact that the availability of human capital trumps every other consideration for a tech company that wants to grow. And the generation that is providing the surge in digital workers, the millennials, at this point still love to cluster in cities that have high taxes and other markers of an overall poor climate for business, such as Boston, Minneapolis and San Francisco.

Surprisingly, the state of Washington, with companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and T-Mobile making their homes there, did not make the top 10 list for growth.

These states showed the fastest growth in technology jobs in 2015, according to Forbes.

High Tech Chart 2.xlsx

Two interesting phenomena also show up in comparative lists such as Forbes’. First, states that once seemed hopeless economic outposts, such as Nebraska, have become tech-growth standouts precisely because of the ability for tech companies and employment to anchor just about anywhere, even outside of areas with other types of economic critical mass. And, second, much of the growth in technology employment is occurring in modernizing industries such as auto manufacturing, which is why Michigan finished high in Forbes’ list.

Review the entire 2016 Best & Worst States for Business results, including individual state rankings, CEO comments, methodology and more at http://chiefexecutive.net/2016-best-and-worst-states-for-business

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Dale Buss
Dale Buss is a long-time contributor to Chief Executive, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and other top-flight business publications. He lives in Michigan.

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