Ambitious IT professionals take note: There are many great places to live where IT is growing and net income is on par or higher than New York and California.
By Lee Reese
Most IT professionals want a rewarding and lucrative tech career, but not everyone wants to move to the most popular technology hotspots—California or New York—to do so. While salaries are highest in those two states, so is the cost of living and tax rate—in addition to the fact these two regions just don’t appeal to everyone.
Many companies have begun to set down roots in places other than these well-known hubs. There are now many great places to live where IT is growing and net income is on par or higher than New York and California.
So, where are these opportunities or alternate hot spots for ambitious IT professionals?
There’s a lot of dialogue about this—even Fast Company recently produced a list. But none of this dialogue is based on data analysis that identifies places with this critical combination: pay above the national average; larger market size; lower IT saturation; and increasing rate of growth. After evaluating these factors in each of the 50 states, we discovered only six states present truly great, raise-your-quality-of-life opportunities. Two of these states offered unexpectedly lucrative markets: Colorado and Ohio.
With the ninth-highest IT wages of any state, Colorado has a lot to offer. Despite a high concentration of private sector workers in tech (ranked third nationwide), a 29.9% annual growth rate indicates many new opportunities exist. This increasing rate may have something to do with the Colorado Blueprint economic planning process, the state’s strategic plan to grow more and better technology jobs. With system design, engineering and communications leading the tech pack, Colorado also hosts the regional offices of an impressive list of established global and U.S. tech companies, including DISH Network, Liberty Interactive, Liberty Global, Oracle, Clear Channel, SAP SE, Verizon, IBM, Sanmina, Qwest Communications/CenturyLink, Hewlett-Packard, and Google.
I asked a representative of Colorado, Jennifer Merchant, why the state is so interested in stimulating technology investment and jobs.
“It's critical that we stay at the forefront of attracting tech talent and investment to the state as its impact reaches across all industries,” she said.
She then pointed me to a second public/private initiative the state is undertaking, the Colorado Innovation Network (COIN). “As a catalyst for innovation, COIN creates a physical and virtual network of global leaders that encourages relationships to support the innovation ecosystem, grow companies and create jobs.
Are these initiatives working? Yes—quality companies of all sizes are growing tech jobs in Colorado.
With a new campus planned to open in the first quarter of 2017, Google will triple its Boulder office space and, it aims to increase its local workforce fivefold. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)—recognized in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For and the 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials in 2015 list—is currently building out analytics and cloud platform teams in Boulder and Denver. And, on the smaller side, SquareTwo Financial continues its growth; the company was ranked 18th in Computerworld’s Best Places to Work in IT 2014 and received the 2015 CIO 100 Award for operational and strategic excellence in IT.
Ohio is another great option for IT professionals considering where to direct their careers. While there is a lower-than average IT wage, the size of the IT market, its low saturation and rapid 23.8% growth suggest Ohio is on track for a higher profile. Central Ohio—and in particular, Columbus, the 15th-largest city in the U.S.—is quickly becoming an up-and-coming hot spot in the IT and advanced analytics fields. In 2012, IBM made the strategic decision to build their new global headquarters for data analytics in Columbus. With more than 500 new jobs supporting the commercialization of IBM’s Watson system, this venture is attracting other major tech employers to the area, with Amazon constructing three data centers in the state. These sites will be part of Amazon Web Services, providing cloud computing, storage and analytics for corporate customers. In June, Saama Technologies, a California company serving big data needs for government, health care and consumer packaged goods industries, announced it will soon be expanding operations to Columbus. And Columbus start-ups are also catching the big data wave: CoverMyMeds, a health care IT software company, expects to double in size in 2015.
Colorado and Ohio are clearly on the move in growing their IT base, from satellites to start-ups. For more information about which individual IT roles are rising (and falling), and where IT professionals should focus their professional development to ensure a long career of maximum opportunity, see Rain Partners’ free “How to Make More Money in IT” report.
Lee Reese brings a broad perspective to her writing, to her management consulting services, and to her role as vice president of Rain Partners.You can read more of her articles at http://www.rainpartners.com/influential-it-pro-blog/.
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