The 13 best-value cities for hiring tech talent

With low business costs and strong talent labor markets, these U.S. and Canadian cities offer the best bang for your hiring buck.

The 13 best-value cities for hiring tech talent
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Companies seeking the best bang for their hiring buck can find strong talent at moderate rates — if they know where to look. And, when operating costs are taken into account, staffing and maintaining an office in just the right city can provide a significant cost — and strategic — advantage.

CBRE Research’s 2017 Scoring Tech Talent report measured labor quality, business costs and other stats that impact hiring. The report looked at the “number and concentration of software engineers with three or more years of experience” that have graduated from one of the top 25 computer science programs in the U.S. and Canada. Cross-referencing that data with the cities ranked for the lowest overall cost for rent and wage, these 23 cities came out on top as your best bets to make affordable hires of high-quality tech talent.

The report points out that there aren’t standardized metrics to measure the quality of a labor market, but as tech salaries continue to rise, businesses are more focused than ever on making quality hires. The most expensive cities to operate in — San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle — are home to “exceptional” tech talent. However, in these 23 other cities, you’ll find cheaper operating costs and a tech labor market that ranks “very high” in quality, according to CBRE.

[ Learn how to win the war for top tech talent, and retain your best by knowing the 9 reasons good employees leave — and how you can prevent it. | Keep up on the latest CIO insights with our CIO Daily newsletter. ]

Vancouver, B.C.

The best bang for your buck is in Vancouver, B.C., where the total estimated cost for rent and wages is just over $24 million per year for 500 employees in a 75,000 square-foot office. While the U.S. dollar is strong, Vancouver offers strong value to U.S. businesses looking for quality talent. It’s the cheapest city to operate in across every category and the city has seen a nearly 13 percent increase in total tech occupations since 2011, whereas non-tech occupations grew only 8.5 percent in the same time.

Cost breakdown:

  • Rent: $1,720,866 (annual for 75,000 sqft)
  • Average tech talent wage: $45,501
  • Average support non-tech wage: $40,217
  • Average management wage: $71,862

Toronto, Ont.

Once again, thanks to the strength of the U.S. dollar, Toronto is one of the most affordable cities to operate in with quality tech talent. The total estimated cost of operation is around $26 million per year for an office of 500 employees, making it the second cheapest city to operate in. In Toronto, more than 32 percent of the workforce holds a bachelor’s degree or higher, and the city has seen nearly 15 percent growth in total tech occupations since 2011.

Cost breakdown:

  • Rent: $1,913,318
  • Average tech talent wage: $47,210
  • Average support non-tech wage: $43,702
  • Average management wage: $78,460

Indianapolis, Ind.

Indianapolis is not only affordable to operate in, with an estimated cost of $36 million per year for an office of 500 employees, but it’s labor market is growing with millennials. Since 2010, Indianapolis’ millennial population has grown by nearly 4 percent, which is almost 20 percent total growth in population. Degree completion in computer engineering, math and statistics and other tech engineering programs grew by 38 percent between 2011 and 2015, increasing the pool of qualified tech candidates in the Indianapolis metro area.

Cost breakdown:

  • Rent: $1,407,000
  • Average tech talent wages: $77,672
  • Average support non-tech wage: $51,608
  • Average management wage: $114,800

Pittsburgh, Pa.

Total estimated costs to operate in Pittsburgh come in at around $37.5 million per year for an office of 500, making it a great value for businesses seeking top talent. Pittsburgh also rates second for the number of millennial workers in the city — over 25 percent of the population. Tech jobs are booming in Pittsburgh, with nearly 24 percent growth since 2011; meanwhile, non-tech jobs grew by less than three percent.

Cost breakdown:

  • Rent: $1,634,250
  • Average tech talent wages: $20,107,965
  • Average support non-tech wage: $10,918,471
  • Average management wage: $4,857,730

Detroit, Mich.

Detroit is one of the more affordable places to find valuable, high-quality tech talent — the average cost to operate is just over $38 million per year. The cost of living for residents is 8 percent lower than the national average, while the cost to run a business is 6 percent lower. The city is experiencing a boom in tech employment, increasing more than 40 percent between 2011 and 2016, while tech jobs grew by more than 9 percent.

Cost breakdown:

  • Rent: $1,380,000
  • Average tech talent wages: $83,482
  • Average support non-tech wage: $54,098
  • Average management wage: $135,517

Portland, Ore.

While the cost of living is 8 percent higher than the national average, the average business spends just over $40 million per year to operate — with business costs that are 4 percent less than the national average. Job growth in tech outpaced other industries, growing almost 13 percent since 2011, while non-tech occupations grew by a little over 6 percent.

Cost breakdown:

  • Rent: $2,015,250
  • Average tech talent wages: $90,039
  • Average support non-tech wage: $51,674
  • Average management wage: $132,420

Atlanta, Ga.

The average total cost to operate in Atlanta comes in at just over $41 million per year, while housing and relative costs are 12 percent below the national average. Tech jobs have also seen massive growth, with a 47 percent uptick in tech employment and nearly 16 percent total growth in tech occupations since 2011. To compare, non-tech jobs only grew by 8 percent overall.

Cost breakdown:

  • Rent: $1,828,500
  • Average tech talent wages: $92,380
  • Average support non-tech wage: $52,995
  • Average management wage: $139,820

Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

On average, businesses spend a total of nearly $42 million per year to operate, while housing and relative costs for businesses in Raleigh-Durham are 11 percent below the national average. Tech occupations have grown over 15 percent since 2011, while the millennial population has grown by more than 11 percent since 2010.

Cost breakdown:

  • Rent: $1,854,750
  • Average tech talent wages: $94,400
  • Average support non-tech wage: $53,371
  • Average management wage: $138,974

Chicago, Ill.

Chicago isn’t the cheapest place to operate, with businesses spending around $42 million per year to operate, but it certainly isn’t the most expensive. Cost of living in Chicago is mostly on par with the national average and tech jobs have grown nearly 12 percent since 2011. However, millennials aren’t hanging around in Chicago — the number of residents from 20 to 29 years of age dropped almost 2 percent since 2010, which is more than a 31 percent drop in a population of over 2.7 million.

Cost breakdown:

  • Rent: $2,226,000
  • Average tech talent wages: $91,200
  • Average support non-tech wage: $55,495
  • Average management wage: $140,050

Dallas/Ft. Worth, Tex.

The average total business cost to operate in Dallas-Ft. Worth is over $43 million per year, with housing and relative costs falling 9 percent below the national average for businesses. And it seems more millennials are finding their way to Dallas-Ft. Worth; the millennial population has increased almost four percent since 2010.

Cost breakdown:

  • Rent: $1,796,250
  • Average tech talent wages: $93,338
  • Average support non-tech wage: $57,504
  • Average management wage: $156,805

Long Island, N.Y.

For businesses looking to hire quality tech talent, Long Island, N.Y., is a relatively affordable place to find it — the average cost to operate a business is over $43 million per year and average cost of business is 6 percent lower than the national average. However, for residents living and working in Long Island, the cost of living is 25 percent higher than the national average.

Cost breakdown:

  • Rent: $2,006,250
  • Average tech talent wages: $92,546
  • Average support non-tech wage: $57,005
  • Average management wage: $161,270

Philadelphia, Pa.

The average operational cost for businesses in Philadelphia is nearly $43.5 million per year, while the average cost of business is just 4 percent higher than the national average. Tech degrees in Philadelphia have grown by almost 34 percent since 2015, while tech occupations have grown almost 10 percent since 2011.

Cost breakdown:

  • Rent: $1,995,000
  • Average tech talent wages: $93,550
  • Average support non-tech wage: $56,773
  • Average management wage: $161,270

Baltimore, Md.

Baltimore is another relatively affordable place to operate a business with a total yearly cost just over $43.5 million per year. The cost of business and cost of living both hover around the national average, and tech jobs have seen 12 percent growth since 2011. And, while most cities on this list cited a 75 percent male workforce in the tech industry, Baltimore is slightly more diverse with a tech workforce that is 69 percent male and 31 percent female.

Cost breakdown:

  • Rent: $1,685,250
  • Average tech talent wages: $98,923
  • Average support non-tech wage: $55,694
  • Average management wage: $142,690

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