Indianapolis saw high-tech software and services employment grow 18 percent from 2012 to 2014—the eighth-fastest rate among the 30 cities surveyed, according to real estate firm CBRE Research.
The results demonstrate the city is increasing its overall technology workforce at a nice pace, even if demand for those workers continues to outstrip supply. While the growth rate is strong, the number of new high-tech jobs here—which CBRE pegged at 3,047—hasn’t been robust enough to give the local real estate market a boost, as those jobs have done in other cities.
“There’s a lot of amazing technology talent coming out of the schools in the Midwest who don’t necessarily want to go to the coasts, and there’s a lot of great companies that have [cultivated] engineers who have worked on great projects,” said Evan Burns, CEO of Odyssey, a Broad Ripple tech media firm that recently landed $25 million in venture capital.
“I would describe the environment to hire engineers as competitive, but we’ve been able to find some great talent to help us build some really, really great tech.”
While CBRE Research focuses on real estate research, it has zeroed in on technology because the sector has been an outsize driver of real estate transactions across the country. From 2009 to mid-2015, the firm said, the U.S. high-tech software and services job sector grew by more than 730,000 jobs, or 34.4 percent.
The second-fastest job-creation sector, media and entertainment, grew only 14.8 percent.
CBRE said high-tech software and services jobs include “computer systems design and related services, software publishers, data processing, and hosting and related services,” among other occupations
It said there were 19,959 such jobs in Indianapolis in 2014, compared with 42,304 in Phoenix and 37,541 in Austin—two other fast-growing second-tier tech hubs. Silicon Valley boasted nearly 120,000 such jobs.
Those jobs represent only a sliver of overall tech employment in Indianapolis. Local tech-advocacy group TechPoint, using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, said in a 2015 report that there were 77,801 computer and IT-related jobs in the area, including just under 52,000 in non-tech industries like health care.
In some cities, high-tech software and services job growth has been a huge driver of new office jobs in general. In the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, market, for instance, the 3,853 jobs created in this sector from 2012 to 2014 accounted for 26 percent of new office jobs. The 9,313 new high-tech jobs created in Austin represented 34 percent of new office jobs.
In Indianapolis, the rate was 10.4 percent, and the city was one of only five markets that saw office rent grow 5 percent or less. Four markets, including Baltimore and Washington, D.C., saw office rent decline.
Indianapolis’ 18-percent job growth far exceeds the national average of 5.7 percent, CBRE Research said, and some of that growth can be attributed to large companies like software giant Salesforce.com and call-center-technologies firm Interactive Intelligence Group Inc.
About 700 of Interactive’s 1,030 Indianapolis employees are engineers, the company said, and it plans to add another 130 this year. San Francisco-based Salesforce looks to hire dozens of software engineers locally in the coming years, officials said.
New and maturing startups are part of the mix. These include Lesson.ly Inc., PactSafe Inc. and DemandJump LLC, and even out-of-town operations like Geofeedia Inc., a Chicago-based social media analytics firm that has anchored its software engineering team in Indianapolis.
Those and several other high-growth firms all have raised growth capital in recent months, partly to invest in the technology products they’ve built from scratch.
“Companies and people are creating and innovating things here; we’re not just producing somebody else’s stuff,” said J.J. Thompson, CEO of the 60-person cybersecurity firm Rook Security. “We’re building, inventing and creating new technology, and you have to fuel that with people.”
Rook is among the ranks of tech creators, thanks to a software product it plans to launch this summer. The company started as a cybersecurity consultancy, then became a so-called managed-security firm, which entailed supplementing or taking over the security operations of client firms.
It had been using whatever software those clients bought, but it will soon be using its own proprietary software—and selling that software as a service. Rook has about 15 software developers on board for its new venture.
Odyssey, which started out publishing newspapers on college campuses, has seen rocket-like growth since debuting a website with proprietary algorithms that manage content creation and measure article quality, among other things. The 30 million monthly unique visitors it boasts today exceed recent monthly totals for The New York Times, CBS Sports and Vice, according to tracking firm Quantcast.
Odyssey employs 110 people across offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Austin, but the 17-person technology team behind its content platform is based in Indianapolis. That team is likely to stay here, officials said, and should add another 30 software workers this year.
Odyssey said it’s looking for various technology roles, including quality assurance specialists, engineers and data scientists.
The firm’s software has been vital to its growth, and its algorithmic features include understanding article sentiment, drawing connections between related posts, audience targeting and more. Some of the positions it’s looking to fill are so nascent that one job description said “a deep experience base isn’t practical.”
“We’re using machine learning to help grow the way we create content,” CEO Burns said.
“It’s something that, at least for me, I didn’t hear people talking about two or three years ago. All of a sudden, machine learning and data science are at the core of what a lot of these companies are using to build a competitive advantage, and it’s been a huge component of what we’ve used to enable the growth of our users. And we have just started investing in a meaningful way.”•