America's fastest-growing tech cities aren't on the coasts
Hear the words "tech economy," and you're likely to think of the major cities that house the country's biggest companies: the San Francisco Bay area, Seattle, New York, possibly Boston.
But if you're looking for a job in tech, you might have a better chance looking elsewhere.
The places with the biggest growth in the sector aren't on the coasts, but are mostly small and midsize cities in the U.S. interior.
Job-listing company ZipRecruiter looked at a year's worth of job postings for technical jobs and ranked the 20 locations that had the biggest growth. The results were surprising. Cincinnati, Ohio, was No. 11 on the list, with a 96 percent increase in tech job listings from last year. Cleveland and Columbus were Nos. 12 and 14, respectively, each with growth rates over 80 percent.
ZipRecruiter defined a technical job by its content, not its employer. For example, receptionists working for software companies didn't count as tech jobs, but network administrators did, regardless of what company they worked for.
"We're getting to a moment where our largest cities are becoming almost an untenable living situation for young people. They're so expensive and crowded. In order to live somewhere affordable, you have to live one-and-a-half hours away from the city center," said Cathy Barrera, chief economic adviser for ZipRecruiter.
"A lot of younger people are looking to move to more manageable cities," she added.
These cities fit the bill. With populations between 100,000 and 1.5 million, in most of them a median house can be had for $200,000 -- affordable on a tech salary. Read on to learn the 10 fastest-growing areas for tech jobs.
1. Huntsville, Alabama
One-year tech job growth: 309 percent
Median tech salary, early career (up to five years' experience): $59,500
Median tech salary, mid-career (more than five years' experience): $96,400
Located in northern Alabama, near the Tennessee border, Huntsville has been a tech center since the 1950s, when the U.S. Army put a group of scientists there to boost the country's space program. The presence of what became NASA has served as a constant draw for the area.
It now has the third most technical workforce in the country, according to a Bloomberg analysis, with nearly 17 percent of the workforce in a science, technology, engineering or math job, abbreviated as STEM.
"Compared to Silicon Valley, the edge in Huntsville lies in the comparison of the cost-of-living to the [typical] salary," said Barrera.
The most listings, per ZipRecruiter, are for software engineers and systems engineers. Listings for tech support specialists, which are typically lower-paying, are also high.
With the median early-career job paying $59,000 and median rent just $950 a month, it's easy to live comfortably in Huntsville.
2. Thousand Oaks, California
One-year tech job growth: 200 percent
Median early career pay: $59,500
Median midcareer pay: $105,000
Thousand Oaks, a community of 125,000, is about 35 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Amgen (AMGN), Teledyne Technologies (TDY) and SAGE Publications have their headquarters there, with hospitals and universities having a large presence in the area.
The top tech job, per ZipRecruiter, is for project manager, with network engineers also in high demand.
"A lot of younger people are looking to move to more manageable cities. Thousand Oaks is an example of that. It helps that it's not too far from LA," Barrera said.
3. Phoenix, Arizona
One-year tech job growth: 188 percent
Median early career pay: $58,400
Median midcareer pay: $96,800
With a population of 1.5 million, Phoenix is the largest city on the top-10 list.
After the housing bubble burst -- a crash that hit Arizona particularly hard -- Phoenix worked to diversity its real estate-dependent economy. And it shows: Over the last five years, the number of tech companies headquartered in the city has nearly quadrupled, a fact mayor Greg Stanton touted in his state of the city address this spring.
In the past year, listings for tech jobs have grown 188 percent, according to ZipRecruiter. Project managers, software engineers, software developers and data analysts have the most job listings.
McKesson (MCK), a pharmaceutical firm; Datashield, a cybersecurity company; defense contractor General Dynamics (GD) and cloud software company MST Solutions are among the businesses looking to hire, recent media reports show.
Phoenix has the advantage of being relatively close to California and the West Coast's tech ecosystem as well as being just a few hours away from the Mexico border. And housing is still more affordable than in many parts of the country, with the median house selling for just $216,000, according to Trulia data.
4. Albany, New York
One-year tech job growth: 161 percent
Median early career pay: $55,200
Median midcareer pay: $87,000
The seat of New York's state government, Albany also has a fairly large tech presence, thanks to the heavy concentration of university and health jobs. The city is near a number of universities, including Rensselaer Polytechnic University, Union College and a number of State University of New York campuses.
Businesses looking to locate in the area get the double benefit of a highly educated pool of potential hires and a state tax break, designed to spur investment in this underresourced area.
"Some of these states and local communities are making a concerted effort to attract entrepreneurs, and upstate New York is an example of that," said Barrera.
Regardless of the cause, listings for tech jobs have boomed 161 percent since the last year, with project managers, developers and engineers topping the list of titles in demand, according to ZipRecruiter.
5. Kansas City, Missouri
One-year tech job growth: 157 percent
Median early career pay: $57,200
Median midcareer pay: $89,500
The city straddling the Missouri-Kansas border has seen 157 percent growth in year-over-year listings for tech jobs. Project managers and network engineers are the most in-demand jobs, according to ZipRecruiter.
Sprint (S), Garmin (GRMN), Cerner (CERN), Bushnell and HNTB, an infrastructure planning company, are all major employers in the region. Kansas City proper has a population approaching half a million, with 2 million people in the greater metro region. And it remains affordable, especially on a tech salary: Median rent is below $900, and the median house costs $207,000.
"This regional city growth has the potential to be quite beneficial for the economy and more generally for Americans," said Barrera. "Having more great jobs in more places is a good thing."
As technology makes remote work easier, ZipRecruiter's Barrera expects regional cities to see even more growth in higher-paying tech jobs.
"If you don't have to be located in New York, if you can do the same jobs from somewhere else, there's probably a decent fraction of people who would make that choice," she said.
There are some caveats to note: ZipRecruiter doesn't have a lock on job listings, and the companies it deals with tend to be small or midsize, which skews the numbers somewhat. But the trends it unearthed are backed up elsewhere.
The rest of the top-10 list is in the South and West.
6. Orlando, Florida
One-year growth in tech job listings: 149 percent
Median early career pay: $52,800
Median midcareer pay: $97,800
7. Salt Lake City, Utah
One-year growth in tech job listings: 117 percent
Median early career pay: $52,800
Median midcareer pay: $87,400
8. Nashville, Tennessee
One-year growth in tech job listings: 114 percent
Median early career pay: $$54,700
Median midcareer pay: $90,200
9. Jacksonville, Florida
One-year growth in tech job listings: 111 percent
Median early career pay: $52,000
Median midcareer pay: $89,200
10. Baltimore, Maryland
One-year growth in tech job listings: 109 percent
Median early career pay: $62,500
Median midcareer pay: $105,000