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Tech industry growing in Michigan

The release of two reports that show an increase in high-tech jobs in Michigan triggered an article by Tyrel Linkhorn of The Blade (published yesterday, March 5th). He was looking for a Toledo angle, so he contacted me (Keith) and we talked for 30 minutes or so. He used two quotes from me. Here are some things we talked about:

Measuring the tech sector/industry based on what a company does (NAICS codes, for example) is important. It helps people see how technology is growing in importance to our economy. I do not have “the numbers” for the Toledo region (who’s job is it to compile those numbers for us?). The number of jobs at companies in the tech industry in the region may be low compared to manufacturing, health care, etc., but my gut tells me it is growing.

The economic impact of tech should also be measured by the number of “tech jobs” across all industries. If an IT professional starts her own software development company (perhaps classified as 541511 Custom Computer Programming), she will be counted as a person in the “tech industry.” But if she does software development as an employee of a company like Owens Corning or ProMedica (which is very common around here), her job will get counted as “Manufacturing” or “Health Care”.

The “IT job count” should be a combination of the vertical industry data (“tech industry jobs”) and the horizontal cross-industry data (“tech occupation jobs”).

When you look at entrepreneurship as a form of regional economic development, then information technology based companies have a lot of potential. It does not take a lot of capital to get started: just an idea and some talented designers and developers. There are different types of startups; tech entrepreneurs can contribute to the regional economy as both “small business” and “scalable,” for example.

So one path to economic growth is to develop more IT talent in the region, and use our quality-of-life assets to retain and attract IT talent. Those are some of the things Tech Toledo is trying to foster at the grass roots level in the Toledo region.

Appendix

If you want to learn more about the reports that triggered this article, check them out:

This part of the Automation Alley summary shows an emerging trend for tech companies in the midwest:

…Southeast Michigan trumps Silicon Valley when it comes to return on investment and cost of living for its employees. A vast majority of Southeast Michigan executives (83 percent) believe technology companies can have greater return on investment doing business in metro Detroit while only 69 percent of their Silicon Valley counterparts believe the same to be true about the Valley. And, cost of living for employees in Southeast Michigan is far superior to Silicon Valley. For example, median housing prices are 412 percent higher in San Jose than in metro Detroit.