CBRE Report Says Demand for Tech Workers is Driving Office Market Momentum in Metro Phoenix

CBRE April 16, 2015

Tech talent clustering is a growing driver of demand for office space in both large and small markets across the U.S., according to a new CBRE Research report, “Scoring Tech Talent” which ranks 50 U.S. markets according to their ability to attract and grow tech talent. Metropolitan Phoenix ranks at number 20 on the list.

While established tech markets like San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; and Seattle dominated the top spots on the “Tech Talent Scorecard,” many smaller, up-and-coming markets stood out as top “momentum markets” based on tech talent growth rates. Oklahoma City and Nashville had a tech talent growth rate of 39 percent between 2010 and 2013, higher than Seattle (38 percent) and just below that of San Francisco (44 percent) and Baltimore (42 percent).  Portland, Ore., and Charlotte, N.C., both saw tech talent growth rates of 28 percent, outpacing well-known tech markets like Austin (26.5 percent), Silicon Valley (20.8 percent) and Los Angeles (13.6 percent). The talent growth rate in Metropolitan Phoenix from 2010-2013 was 31.7 percent, placing it at No. 6 in overall tech-talent growth momentum.

“Tech talent growth rates are the best indicator of labor pool momentum, and it’s easily quantifiable to identify the markets where demand for tech workers has surged,” said Colin Yasukochi, director research and analysis for CBRE. “Tech talent growth, primarily within the high-tech industry, has recently been the top driver of office leasing activity in the U.S.”

Though tech talent comprises only 3.4 percent of the total U.S. workforce (4.4 million workers), the high-tech industry accounted for more major U.S. office leasing activity than any other sector in both 2013 (13.6 percent) and 2014 (19.0 percent), according to the CBRE report. Locally, office-leasing trends have mirrored these national trends and technology-driven leasing in Phoenix has doubled since 2012. In 2014, 10 percent of all office leasing activity came from the high-tech industry.

“For the past two years, the high-tech industry has not only spurred the economy as a whole, but it has been the top driver of commercial office activity, influencing rents and vacancy in major markets across the U.S., including Phoenix,” said Bryce Terveen, first vice president, who leads CBRE’s Tech and Media Practice group in Phoenix.

“It’s no secret the Valley’s tech office market has seen a surge recently as companies like LifeLock, Zenefits, Weebly, ZocDoc and others have either entered the market or expanded their existing footprints. This growth is a direct result of available talent and the cost-effectiveness of locating in metro Phoenix. Looking at the costs associated with locating in one of the 23 large tech talent markets, Phoenix is the third-most cost-effective, behind only Detroit and St. Louis. As more technology companies look to expand outside of high-cost markets like San Francisco and New York, Phoenix becomes an attractive option.”

The top 10 large markets on the Tech Talent Score Card (identified as markets with a talent pool above 50,000 tech professionals) were:

1. Silicon Valley, Calif.
2. Washington, D.C.
3. San Francisco, Calif.
4. San Francisco Peninsula, Calif.
5. New York, N.Y.
6. Seattle, Wash.
7. Boston, Mass.
8. Baltimore, Md.
9. Austin, Texas
10. Atlanta, Ga.

Dallas, Orange County, Chicago and Raleigh-Durham took the 11, 12, 13 and 14 ranked positions  before a small market — defined as a market with a tech talent labor pool of less than 50,000 — made its way onto the list.  The top-ranked small markets included:

15. Oakland, Calif.
16. Edison, N.J.
23. Columbus, Ohio
25. Salt Lake City, Utah
26. Portland, Ore.
27. Newark, N.J.
29. Long Island, N.Y.
30. Kansas City, Mo.
31. Charlotte, N.C.
33. Cincinnati, Ohio

The report also looked at which markets present the greatest cost for occupiers based on wages paid to employees and rent paid for office space. CBRE Research combined these two costs for a “typical” 500-person tech firm needing 75,000 square feet of office space for each market and found that for large markets, Silicon Valley is the highest cost and Detroit is the lowest cost. For smaller markets, Oakland is the highest cost and Oklahoma City is the lowest cost.

The top five most cost-effective large markets were:

1. Detroit, Mich.
2. St. Louis, Mo.
3. Phoenix, Ariz.
4. Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas
5. Atlanta, Ga.

The top five most cost-effective small markets were:

1. Oklahoma, Okla.
2. Orlando, Fla.
3. Nashville, Tenn.
4. San Antonio, Texas
5. Cleveland, Ohio

The CBRE report also identified various characteristics that are shared by tech talent markets:

  • Gender Diversity:  The U.S. average breakdown for tech talent occupations is 76.2 percent male and 23.8 percent female. Half of tech talent markets have a greater concentration of women in these occupations when compared with the U.S. average, but the numbers are still imbalanced. The most gender-diverse tech talent market is Philadelphia, where females occupy 31 percent of tech talent occupations.
  • Education: Nearly 75 percent of the top 50 tech talent markets have an educational attainment rate above the national average. New York; Washington, D.C.; and Los Angeles topped the list for the most tech degrees completed in a two-year period.  When it comes to small markets, Columbus was the standout in this area, besting large markets like Dallas/Ft. Worth and Philadelphia in the number of tech degrees completed in the last two years.  These numbers are an indication of future tech talent growth.
  • Millennials: The presence of Millennials in the work force has contributed to the growth of tech talent labor pools. In Boston, Millennials make up more than 25 percent of the total population. In Washington, D.C., the Millennial population has increased by 26.5 percent since 2009.

“Though highly concentrated within the high-tech services industry, tech talent is not limited to any one type of company and can be found across all industry sectors. In fact, more than 60 percent of tech talent jobs are located outside of the core high-tech industry and these workers help generate innovation and advances that can boost the whole economy, including the commercial real estate market,” said Yasukochi.

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