Is DFW Attracting Top Tech Talent? You Bet it Is

What makes an area attractive to tech companies? An educated workforce is high on the list, as is location, location, location.

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EDUCATION IS A KEY COMPONENT IN MAKING A REGION ATTRACTIVE TO TECH COMPANIES


There’s a hot competition nationwide among cities to build their technology sectors and attract top tech talent.

According to a recent blog post by Dallas-based financial and professional services firm JLL, Dallas-Fort Worth is doing better at attracting tech talent in computer and mathematical occupations than some people might think.

In fact, when compared to other major metropolitan areas in the United States, DFW ranks fifth in an important gauge of the concentration of tech employment behind San Francisco/San Jose, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Boston.

JLL’s look into DFW tech employment was the result of a comment made by a speaker at a meeting being attended by JLL’s Director of Research Walter Bialas, and researcher Sam Wood.

The speaker said that Dallas-Fort Worth lacked the schools to “stimulate technology employment.”

“We kind of took exception to that,” Bialas said.

TECH TALENT CONCENTRATION IN DFW IS SURPRISINGLY STRONG

The research by Wood utilized a metric known as a location quotient to determine the rankings, with the Silicon Valley’s location quotient being 2.7, while DFW had a score of 1.46.

“It’s not surprising to find that the Bay Area takes the top spot,” Wood said. “But what is surprising is seeing Dallas-Ft Worth has done quite well solidifying a fifth-place spot in terms of tech job concentration.”

A location quotient is a ratio comparing a metropolitan area’s distribution of employment by industry compared against a base area, according to JLL. An LQ greater than one shows a higher distribution of employment in the computer and mathematical fields than the U.S. as a whole, the researchers said.

DFW has a strong and diverse industry base, with such Fortune 500 companies as Texas Instruments (Nasdaq: TXN), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), American Airlines Group (Nasdaq: AAL), Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV), and Alliance Data maintaining their global headquarters here. Other industry giants such as Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ), Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), Raytheon (NYSE: RTN), Bell Helicopter, Huawei, Ericsson, and Airbus Helicopters, among others, operate U.S. headquarters in DFW.

Those names alone show the diversity of industries in DFW that require the expertise of tech workers, because North Texas is the home of massive telecommunications, defense, aviation, biotech, data centers, and logistics operations that all require technology expertise.

DFW HAS A DIVERSE INDUSTRY BASE, EVEN IN TECH

“We have a lot here that speaks to the diversity of the Dallas market,” Bialas said. “I don’t think I want us to have just one industry, you know the charm of our economy is that it’s so diverse.”

The area’s strength comes in part because of its location in the center of the United States and the fact that the local economy continues to grow.

But even as DFW shows strength in tech employment, Bialas and Wood said they believe the area must work hard to develop the educational systems in North Texas to produce the kinds of graduates that technology companies will want to hire.

The JLL blog noted that all of the metropolitan areas with strong tech employment correspond to areas with universities that are strong in computer and mathematical eduction.

Bialas and Wood said DFW have colleges and universities that are capable of supplying graduates who are capable of filling the jobs that tech companies will offer.

EDUCATION IS THE FOUNDATION OF TECH TALENT

The announcement in February that the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education had elevated University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Texas at Arlington, and the University of North Texas in Denton to the prestigious R-1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity status will enhance the ability of the region to not only draw companies to North Texas, but also will help produce qualified graduates.

“I think we have a pretty good basis for tech employment here. We don’t have schools that are in the Top 10, but there a lot of engineering programs that produce graduates who can contribute quite significantly,” Wood told me in an interview.

“While we don’t have schools in the top 10 or top 25 directly, we have foundation stock here. We have a root that is thriving and is healthy,” Bialas said.

Wood and Bialas said that area school districts should continue to push STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education to prepare secondary school students for the technology jobs of tomorrow.

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This chart from the JLL blog shows the scores of major metro areas across the nation for tech employment concentration. [Courtesy JLL]

 

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