Local efforts to support startups have helped turn some unexpected places into hotbeds of IT activity. Job hunting? Think St. Louis, or Charlotte.

By Anne Fisher
March 20, 2013

Silicon Alley redux

Everybody knows that, if you want your pick of interesting IT jobs, Silicon Valley is the place to look. Right? Well, no.

“Communities across the country are coming together to encourage startups, court big employers, and fund STEM education initiatives,” notes Tom Silver, senior vice president of tech job site Dice.com. “So tech hubs are rapidly being redefined.”

New York City, with 8,829 IT job postings on Dice in early March, still leads the pack — partly due to Silicon Alley startups’ ravenous appetite for tech talent, and partly because a wide range of other industries, from finance to publishing, need techies too. The Washington D.C.-Baltimore area comes in second (7,527 job postings), thanks to its huge concentration of defense contractors, trailed by third-place Silicon Valley (5,123).

But the real surprises are in smaller cities most people don’t think of as tech hubs at all. Here are the five fastest-growing metro areas for IT jobs.


St. Louis

Tech openings have jumped 25% in the past year, and pay is rising, too. Average IT salaries are up 13% over the past year, to about $81,000. “St. Louis is becoming a startup town,” says Silver. That’s partly thanks to the St. Louis Technology Entrepreneur Network, which helps new companies write business plans, find mentors, get funding, and more.


Charlotte

The oil and gas industry is booming in Charlotte, where more than 550 companies — some big, like Duke Energy DUK , and many much smaller — have stepped up tech recruiting activity by 22% since last March. “That’s impressive, considering that North Carolina’s tech workforce already grew 6% in 2012,” Silver notes. “A new wave of energy investments is underway right now, which will probably increase technology and engineering job creation even more.”


Austin

Dell’s DELL home town, dubbed Silicon Gulch, has been a hotbed of tech startups for a couple of decades now, a trend accelerated over the past five years by the annual South By Southwest conference that draws entrepreneurs and investors from all over the world. “There is definitely a boomlet going on in Austin,” observes Silver. “It’s a great place for startups to get visibility.” And for techies to get jobs: Listings on Dice are up 16% over this time last year.


Phoenix

With 13% more IT job postings than last March, Phoenix ranks fourth in the U.S. for tech salary growth, with average pay up 12% over the past year, to $83,607. Especially now that the housing market is showing signs of life, so that moving from one city to another is getting easier, “things like quality of life and cost of living are starting to matter more to tech people,” Silver says. “A lot of companies are opening offices in places like Phoenix that are less expensive, and more livable, than New York or San Francisco.”


Detroit and beyond

Yes, Detroit. Not only is the cost of living relatively low, but the local economy “is starting to recover, and there’s a great local emphasis on STEM education,” Silver says. Motown’s Woodward Avenue is buzzing with tech startups, as well as bigger companies like Compuware, which moved its headquarters to downtown Detroit from Chicago in 2003 and now invests in new IT companies in the area. Twitter has a brand new Detroit office, too. Last year at this time, Silver notes, “Detroit had about 800 IT job postings on Dice on any given day. Now, it’s about 1,100. The auto industry certainly needs a lot of tech talent, but it’s not just about cars anymore.”

Let’s say that, for whatever reasons, none of those cities appeals to you. The rest of the Top 10 for total number of tech jobs, after third-ranked Silicon Valley: Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle, and Philadelphia.

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