Are College Towns the Next Wave of American Tech Hubs?

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Many students move to college towns with the hopes of getting a degree and moving on to bigger cities where they can launch a career. But according to CompTIA’s 2018 Tech Town Index, cities like Boulder, Colorado and Madison, Wisconsin have graduated into full-on innovation hubs, which means students may not have to look farther than a few miles off campus when it comes to kicking off a career in tech.  

The Tech Town Index identifies the nation’s “Top 20 Tech Towns” based on cost of living, IT job growth and salaries—and one of the study’s biggest takeaways is that college towns are emerging as leading tech hotspots. So what makes these areas so attractive? Access to a constantly refreshing talent pool and desirable quality of life.

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Access to Tech Talent

A skilled workforce is a natural resource that enables tech hubs to thrive. So perhaps it’s no surprise that startup activity and tech hiring is hottest in areas with close proximity to educated talent. From Michigan State in Lansing to the University of Wisconsin in Madison to the Airforce Academy in Colorado Springs, and even larger cities like Boston which hosts 35 colleges, there is a direct correlation between talent availability and innovation creation.

This trend is boosted by an increase in public-private partnerships between universities and city governments. For example, Duke University partnered with Durham to transform an abandoned cigarette factory into a research hub, Georgia Institute of Technology and Atlanta collaborated to launch Technology Square, and New Jersey Institute of Technology partnered with the city of Newark on a project to promote smart city infrastructure.

AITP Tech Towns_15 Durham North Carolina

These types of partnerships have propelled universities to become a leading source of IT job growth. In Austin, the University of Texas ranks as a top 10 source for IT job openings, and in Durham, both Duke and UNC rank as top 10 IT employers, according to the Tech Town report.   

Quality of Life

Additionally, college towns are luring IT pros away from traditional tech hubs because of their low cost of living and desirable quality of life.

For example, in Lansing—the 13th ranked Tech Town—more than 7,800 tech jobs were posted in the last 12 months and the cost of living is nine percent lower than the national average. And in Durham, IT pros earn a median salary of $84,011 and the cost of living is 0.2 percent below national average.

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Compare that to San Francisco – where home prices are sky-rocketing and the cost of living is 64 percent higher than the national average – and it’s easy to see why college towns are attractive for tech pros who are looking to put down their roots.

Job growth is booming in the tech industry, and the 2018 Tech Town Index shows that you don’t have to move to Silicon Valley to advance a career in IT.

Access to talent and desirable quality of life have helped college towns across the nation blossom into thriving tech ecosystems. For individuals looking to jumpstart a career in tech, this means there’s more opportunity and choice than ever.

Want to find out which college towns are climbing the list of top tech hubs? Download CompTIA’s 2018 Tech Town Index here.

Click to download the Tech Towns Report