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Study Finds Fayetteville Top Tech Spot

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Guests watched a simulation of how RFID technology may be used through out the supply-chain. Here, boxes of products travel through the conveyance system as their RFID tags are scanned.

Staff Report

Fayetteville might not be one of the first places you’d think of as a high-tech hub, but it is among the fastest-growing metro areas for high-tech jobs in the country.

From 2010 to 2011, the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers area saw an 8.6 percent increase in the number of high-tech jobs created, one of the top 25 metro areas for high-tech employment growth in the United States. The average percent growth in technology jobs across the country was 2.6 percent, and the average growth for Arkansas was 0.6 percent.

A new study released today by Engine Advocacy, “Technology Works” (engine.is/techworks), shows that high-tech jobs are growing in communities across the United States, outpacing job growth in the private sector as a whole and boosting local growth and job creation. Engine Advocacy commissioned the Bay Area Council Economic Institute to analyze Bureau of Labor Statistics data to identify communities around the country that are experiencing pronounced job growth in the high-tech sector.

“It’s no surprise that Fayetteville has witnessed a surge in tech jobs in the past year,” said Justin Patton, director of the University of Arkansas Fayetteville RFID Center. “Here at the University of Arkansas Fayetteville we are opening up a new facility that will make our area one of the leading destinations for Radio Frequency Identification research and education in the country. It’s an exciting time to be working in the technology industry in Northwest Arkansas.”

The study went on to show that the average salary of a high-tech worker in the area was $64,770 per year. Additionally, the region has been one of the highest growth metro areas in the past five years with a 5.7 percent increase in high-tech jobs from 2006 to 2011.

Fayetteville’s burgeoning tech scene has attracted talent from across the country as well as encouraged homegrown startups to stay local. Founder and CEO Kenny Tomlin of Rockfish, a digital innovation partner, attributed the area’s unique environment directly to the success of his own business.

“Rockfish is proud to be part of the tech job growth in Northwest Arkansas,” Tomlin said. “The wealth of talent and business opportunities available to us here helped us grow from a one-man startup in 2006 into the strategic, digital innovation partner we are today for clients locally as well as nationally.”

“We have an unique environment here in Fayetteville in that we have a community committed to entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as elected officials and policymakers who really get what we’re doing,” said Chung Tan, manager of economic development at the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. “We are fortunate to have been able to collaborate through partnerships to promote technology, and we are excited to see such positive results.”

Key Findings:

• Jobs in high-tech industries exist almost everywhere, with 98 percent of U.S. counties home to at least one high-tech business.

• Hubs of high-tech employment can be found in unexpected places, including communities in the Midwest, South, West, Northeast and along both coasts.

• Employment growth in the high-tech sector has outpaced growth in the private sector by a ratio of 3-to-1 since the dot-com bust’s bottom in early 2004.

• High-tech job growth is projected to outpace the job growth of the economy as a whole over this decade, expanding by 16.2 percent between 2011 and 2020.

• High-tech workers earn 17 to 27 percent more than their peers in other industries, even when controlling for factors such as age, gender, and education.

• Higher wages and job growth have significant effects. The creation of one job in the high-tech sector is estimated to best, associated with the creation of 4.3, other jobs in local economies.

Enrico Moretti, professor of economics at the University of California Berkeley and author of The New Geography of Jobs, said of the report: “This study addresses an important question: how important is high-tech employment growth for the U.S. labor market? As it turns out, the dynamism of the U.S. high-tech companies matters not just to scientists, software engineers and stockholders, but to the community at large. While the average worker may never be employed by Google or a high-tech startup, our jobs are increasingly supported by the wealth created by innovators.”

Not only has high-tech job growth remained strong over the last decade, but the report also shows the trend will continue and that demand for high-tech workers will surpass demand for workers in other sectors.

“This research confirms the story that I see unfolding every day in cities across the country,” said Michael McGeary, senior strategist for Engine Advocacy. “The trajectory for job growth and the higher incomes of tech workers, combined with the job-multiplier effect, make the high-tech sector a key driver of economic growth in cities across America.”

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