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Automation Alley Report Shows Strong Tech Growth In Region Post-Recession

TROY (WWJ) -- Michigan saw the nation's fastest rate of technology job growth from 2011 to 2012, according to a new report from Automation Alley, southeast Michigan's technology business association.

The report analyzed data for growth in technology companies -- the most recent data set available from federal sources was 2011 -- and growth in tech jobs -- the most recent data set available was 2012.

The jobs figures jumped, showing the Automation Alley region added 10,000 tech jobs during the period, while Silicon Valley lost 30,000.

The figures showed metro Detroit was No. 2 behind Chicago in the Midwest when it came to technology industry businesses and technology industry employment. Nationwide, the Detroit area was No. 4 in tech industry employment, behind Chicago, Dallas and Boston. In tech industry businesses, Detroit was No. 5, behind Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta and Boston.

The numbers defined the tech industry more broadly than just IT. Figures included advanced automotive, advanced manufacturing, chemicals and materials, IT, life sciences, and related technologies like commercial equipment.

The figures, crunched by Lansing's Anderson Economic Group, also were analyzed for intensity of tech industry employment compared to the rest of the regions' economy. By that score, metro Detroit trailed only Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas. In terms of concentration of tech companies compared to the overall economy, Detroit was second only to Minneapolis in the Midwest and trailed only Silicon Valley and Minneapolis nationwide.

About 320 people attended the presentation, held at the Troy Marriott. It kicked off with a promotional video of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America event, coming to Detroit in September, and ended with a promotional video for the Big M manufacturing event, coming to Cobo Center in June.

"You know, there's something about a comeback," Automation Alley executive director Ken Rogers said.

Rogers said he thought the ITS video "captures the essence of what's happening in metro Detroit right now. There's a tangible excitement in the air. New companies are launching. Existing companies are reinventing themselves with new technology. People who left the region are coming back because they are finding opportunity right here at home. We create and do things here. We do that better than anybody else in the country. That is how we have evolved into one of the leading technical centers in the country. That has given us a foundation to build a new, tech based economy."

The numbers benchmarked Detroit against Boston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Grand Rapids, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Seattle and San Jose-Santa Clara, Calif.

Luncheon keynote speaker Michael Grieves, a nationally recognized expert in industrial automation and software, said the keys to the region's success were those of any other region -- high-tech and educational attainment.

"The low-skill jobs are gone and I don't see them coming back." Grieves said. "They've been chased overseas, and eventually even those countries will be in trouble, because with automation it will eventually turn out that the cheapest labor is nonhuman labor."

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