Metro Detroit on par with Silicon Valley in tech jobs

Lauren Abdel-Razzaq
The Detroit News

Detroit — The southeast Michigan region is on par with famed Silicon Valley when it comes to jobs and employers working in the tech industry, according to a report released Thursday by Anderson Economic Group.

“You have a technology industry in Metro Detroit that is the equal to all of Silicon Valley in terms of jobs, number of employers and the number of occupations identified,” said Patrick Anderson, principal at the research firm.

Metro Detroit had more than 171,000 technology occupation jobs in 2013, compared to San Jose’s almost 180,000 jobs, according to the report. This region was home to more than 224,000 employees working for businesses in the technology industry, compared to San Jose’s 300,000 in 2012. Metro Detroit had more technology industry establishments in 2012: 7,160 to San Jose’s 7,061. And this region produced 9,428 graduates with degrees in the STEM subjects in the 2012-13 school year, compared to San Jose’s 5,284.

“There should be the same sense of excitement here as in Silicon Valley,” said Anderson. “Clearly the numbers show in multiple sectors that the Metro Detroit area is one of the best areas in the United States.”

The annual report, which was released Wednesday during a presentation with Automation Alley and compares data from 15 cities across the country, looked at a strict definition of technology sector jobs: including automotive, manufacturing, chemical and material, information technology, life sciences and related or other technologies. It also broke down the fields by jobs available.

Unsurprisingly, southeast Michigan ranks first in the number of advanced automotive industry jobs and the number of engineering technology and engineering-related degrees, Anderson said.

“Part of that is you build the talent, you attract the talent and then you employ the talent,” he said. “These are high-tech, high-wage, high-skill jobs.”

The study was revealed Thursday at the Automation Alley conference at the Detroit Colony Club. Automation Alley, a creation of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson back in 1998, is a technology business association and business accelerator dedicated to growing the economy of Southeast Michigan.

Although 13 percent of Metro Detroit jobs are in the tech sector compared to 25 percent of the jobs in Silicon Valley, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans touted the diversity as better for the economy.

“I’m not terribly surprised we rank so high in technology companies in the whole engineering-type related degrees. It’s impressive,” said Evans. “What surprises me is the diversity of technology related businesses.”

Compared to the Midwest cities in the study, southeast Michigan ranks second in the number of utility patents issued and third for the number of technology establishments.

Some of the other cities looked at in the study include Chicago, Austin, Boston and San Jose.

Anderson said the region excels in tech jobs related to the life sciences. The sector has been adding jobs steadily, including a 4 percent increase in 2014. Architecture and engineering jobs saw the greatest increases, up 4.2 percent last year.

“Life sciences has been under appreciated, said Anderson. “We have a huge life sciences sector in Washtenaw, Wayne and Oakland counties that is extremely strong and continuing to grow.”

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