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Study: Indy tech labor force inexpensive, among best in country

July 21, 2017

When it comes to companies looking for tech talent, Indianapolis is the top bang-for-your-buck market in the country, according to a new report by real estate firm CBRE.

In its "2017 Scoring Tech Talent report" published this week, CBRE found that only five out of 50 cities had both of these attributes: tech labor pools considered "very high" quality and tech labor costs considered "low." (See the results depicted visually here).

The least costly city—as measured by the average annual software developer salary there—was Vancouver, followed by Toronto, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Detroit.

Twenty-three had very-high-quality tech workforces—calculated from a variety of factors, including experience. But the five cities mentioned above were the only ones where average software developers’ salaries were lower than $90,000.

In Indianapolis, the average software developer salary is $77,970, CBRE said. Not only is that figure the lowest among very-high-quality cities, but it's the lowest among the 48 U.S. cities in the survey.

"Since the cost of talent is the largest expense for most firms, the quality of that tech talent is becoming one of their most important considerations," Colin Yasukochi, director of research and analysis for CBRE, said in prepared remarks.

CBRE said its labor-quality metric was based on the concentration of software engineers with at least three years of experience who graduated from one of the top 25 computer science programs in the United States and Canada, as determined by U.S. News and World Report.

Its four categories were good (17 cities), high (8), very high (23) and exceptional (2).

San Francisco and Seattle were the two cities with exceptional labor pools. They were also the two most-expensive cities for developers, with wages averaging $128,821 and $125,908, respectively.

Vancouver and Toronto were in a league of their own when it came to labor costs, with developer salaries averaging $60,107 and $62,365, respectively. But CBRE noted that the numbers for those Canadian cities were aided by a strong U.S. dollar.

Other findings

While the Circle City performed well on value, it fell in the middle of the pack on CBRE's overall scorecard. That list looks at metrics including labor force growth, educational attainment, business costs and more.

Indianapolis came in at No. 33 on CBRE's overall list. One highlight: Its tech workforce grew by 42 percent between 2011 and 2016, the 12th fastest in the country. One lowlight: Its millennial population—the number of downtown residents ages 20-29—grew 3.6 percent, below the U.S. average of 4.6 percent. 

Indianapolis has 35,010 technology workers, CBRE said, the 34th-largest tech workforce in the country.

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