Region registering impressive tech-job gains

December 7, 2013

Indianapolis’ and Carmel’s work forces were so lacking in high-tech jobs in 2001 that the void led to breakneck-speed hiring over the past 12 years as the cities caught up—faster than almost any other place in the United States.

Employers hired so many people for science, technology, engineering and math jobs that the area ranked ninth in growth, according to a November report by North Dakota economic development consultant Praxis Strategy Group.

stem-table.gifThe situation was common among some similar-size cities, said Mark Schill, vice president of research at Praxis.

Tech companies—and the general public—focused so much on businesses in San Francisco or New York that no one realized how quickly science and tech jobs sprouted in cities like Indianapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; and Salt Lake City, Schill said.

Indianapolis and Carmel especially lacked computer-related jobs compared to other cities, said Indiana economist Michael Hicks, executive director of the Center for Economic Research at Ball State University.

Despite the gains, the area ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of how densely STEM jobs are concentrated in the labor force.

Researchers looked at growth in two ways: STEM jobs across all industries and all jobs within STEM industries.

STEM jobs increased 11 percent, to about 49,000 people across all industries. Nationally, STEM jobs picked up 3 percent.

Among STEM industries, total job growth was steeper. New jobs at science and tech companies—regardless of whether those positions had anything to do with science or tech—shot up 50 percent in the Indianapolis-Carmel area. The gain was 20 percent nationwide.

Praxis’ report showed individual careers and industries were a mixed bag in terms of how well they’ve performed in central Indiana since the 2001 tech bubble burst.

Among the findings:

• Biotech jobs are much more densely concentrated in Indianapolis, which is home to companies as large as Eli Lilly and Co. and Roche Diagnostics. The big corporations “can drive spinouts, they can drive suppliers to these bigger firms,” Schill said. “But it can also color the work force somewhat.”

• Computers, by far, created the most STEM jobs—almost 4,500 new positions in Indianapolis and Carmel, for a total of about 24,600. Growth in computer jobs happened everywhere, though. Despite a 22-percent boost in the job category, the career field is about as dense as the rest of the United States. But recent, rapid growth also shows the city has a lot of potential in the near future if that level of growth continues, Schill said.

• Two career areas took hits: engineers (down 5 percent) and engineering-related positions such as drafters, engineering technicians and mapping technicians (down 14 percent). The slump paralleled what happened throughout the country. The two categories cost Indianapolis more than 1,000 jobs since 2001.

• Tech-centric San Francisco maintains a big presence in STEM jobs. It ranked fifth in Praxis’ report. And Austin, Texas, topped the list, to no one’s surprise. But a lot of metro areas more comparable to Indianapolis—Nashville, Tenn.; Salt Lake City; Kansas City, Mo.; Jacksonville, Fla.—all ranked high. Silicon Valley has and will continue to grow, Schill said, but with so many STEM jobs there, adding a few thousand does not make a significant difference. At the same time, a lot of companies are looking for cheaper places to operate, he said, which is one of Indiana’s favorite selling points.•


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