Brookings: No matter which way you look at it, tech jobs are still concentrating in just a few cities

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A new report from Brookings shows that tech-based growth will likely “not diffuse out into America’s up-and-coming midsized cities and small towns on its own.” The report calls for a national innovative response in order to give heartland metro areas a seat at the tech table.

Some highlights:

  • 90% of the nation’s innovation sector employment growth in the last 15 years was generated in just five major coastal cities: Seattle, Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, and San Jose, Calif.
  • Tech remains a compelling contributor to regional growth, and the report does acknowledge the dozens of startups launching in places like Memphis, Akron, Ohio, and Louisville, Ky, leading to more tech jobs since 2010. But even accounting for those, it still shows digital tech has continued to concentrate in a short list of major cities over the decade, with the likelihood of cities like Akron and Memphis losing their share of the tech sector.
  • Digital services continues to be a critical part of the national economy, accounting for 80% of the nation’s advanced industries growth from 2010 to 2018, with employment growing 4.2% a year. 
  • Although more cities are enjoying a rise in the number of tech jobs, the sector has been rapidly concentrating all decade. The top five metro areas with the highest shares of the nation’s digital services industry accounted for 28% of all of these jobs nationwide in 2018, while the top 10 encompassed 44.3%. 
  • "At a time when the nation badly needs to reconnect left-behind people and places to prosperity, tech’s inherent tendency to facilitate geographic agglomeration is only sharpening the nation’s divides."

The author proposes a plan to focus transformative R&D, workforce inclusion, and “placemaking” investment on a limited number of locations as part of a deliberate effort to catalyze the innovation sector takeoff of those regions and develop new tech centers in new places. “The same type of federal, place-based innovation surge that created Silicon Valley less intentionally could be updated to do the same for America’s left-behind regions.”

Read the full report at Brookings.edu

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