When people think about high-tech cities, they usually think about San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle and Austin. These cities, and the areas around them, are home to tech giants like Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft. This has started to change. These cities are extremely expensive to work in, and office building prices have soared. Sometimes, cities and states don’t have large enough tax abatements to stay or regulations to add offices. Elon Musk recently moved Tesla to Texas. High-tech companies have started to open huge offices in New York City to tap into its tech talent. As the largest companies employ well over 100,000 workers, they have to spread out, away from original campuses.
According to the Workforce Information Council, the high-tech sector includes any industry that employs a high percentage of workers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) occupations. That encompasses more than 30 categories, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), including such diverse fields as pharmaceuticals, engine and power transmission equipment, semiconductors, aerospace parts, telecommunications, data processing services, oil and gas extraction, and even forestry.
Though STEM occupations account for only about 6% of all jobs in the American economy, according to the BLS, high-tech industries are vitally important to cities these days. Not only are places with established or emerging high-tech sectors poised for economic growth, but a strong technology industry can help a city weather the economic shocks of a recession and even a pandemic.
To identify the best small high-tech city in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the Milken Institute’s Best-Performing Cities 2021, which ranks municipalities and metro areas according to the “high-tech GDP concentration and the number of high-tech industries” they are home to, as well as the presence of “scientific research and development services.” Population figures in the list of finalists came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey one-year estimates.
Topping the list was Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of such companies as BFGoodrich Tire Manufacturing, Hunt Refining Company and Nucor Steel. It is 20 miles from the Mercedes-Benz International assembly plant as well. Second on the list was Lawton, Oklahoma, one of that state’s key manufacturing centers.
Rounding out the top five candidates, in descending order, were one midwestern locale (Springfield, Illinois), one in the Northeast (Lebanon, Pennsylvania) and one on the west coast (San Rafael, California). All are well positioned to thrive in the coming years.
These are the details on Tuscaloosa:
- High-tech GDP concentration ranking 2019: 150th
- High-tech GDP ranking 2014 to 2019: First
- High-tech GDP ranking 2018 to 2019: Second
- Population: 251,836