Madison ranks 25th among top 50 cities for tech talent

Wisconsin's state capital moves up 10 spots on CBRE scorecard

Madison

Madison ranked 25th and Milwaukee ranked 44th among the 50 largest U.S. and Canadian markets (by number of tech talent professionals) for their ability to attract and grow tech talent in a new report.

Los Angeles-based global commercial real estate company CBRE Group Inc.’s newly released Scoring Tech Talent report reviewed 13 metrics, including tech talent supply, growth, concentration, cost, completed tech degrees, industry outlook for job growth, and market outlook for office and apartment rent growth.

Madison improved significantly in the rankings this year, while Milwaukee was stagnant. In CBRE’s 2018 Scoring Tech Talent report, Milwaukee ranked 43rd and Madison ranked 35th.

CBRE defines tech talent as “a group of highly skilled workers in more than 20 technology-oriented occupations driving innovation across all industry sectors.” It included 50 tech talent markets, which it defines as “characterized by high concentrations of college-educated workers, major universities producing tech graduates and large twentysomething populations.”

Madison scored a 47.96 on CBRE’s metrics, rocketing up 10 spots in the rankings from last year’s report, which CBRE attributed to strong tech-centric universities. At 26.5%, Madison was the top-ranked market for highest concentration of twentysomethings. The U.S. average is 13.8%. With 57% of residents 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher, it also ranked third in educational attainment. The U.S. average is 31.3%.

Madison had 23,470 employed in tech occupations in 2018, up 47% from 2013, with an average wage of $84,169, up 15% from 2013. Its labor force pipeline is strong, with 1,790 tech degree completions in 2017, up 42.6% from 2012. The average apartment rent is $1,150 per unit per month, a 12% five-year growth. Madison’s living cost is 1% higher than the national average and business cost is 1% lower than the national average. Its tech talent skews heavily male, at 75%. And Madison is still considered a brain drain city, with 205 fewer tech jobs added than tech degrees awarded over roughly the past five years.

“Madison is experiencing tremendous growth, driven heavily by the robust tech and biotech industries,” said Chase Brieman, first vice president at CBRE’s Madison office, in a statement. “Madison has one of the most economically diverse economies in the country, providing stability and opportunity. Companies see that the talent pool is exceptional, the cost of occupancy is affordable and the people they attract value the quality of life that Madison offers.”

Milwaukee scored 29.26 on CBRE’s metrics. As of 2018, it had 31,620 employed in tech occupations, up 10.1% from 2013, with an average wage of $82,775, up 7.5% from 2013. About 800 tech degrees were awarded in Milwaukee in 2017, up 26.8% from 2012. About 23.6% of Milwaukee residents had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2018. The living cost in Milwaukee is 1% below the national average, while business costs are 3% above the national average. The average apartment rent is $1,113 per unit per month, up 5% over the past five years.

Milwaukee is losing twentysomethings, at -2.9% from 2012 to 2017, while the average U.S. city gained 2.5% during that time. And it is a brain drain city, with 636 fewer tech jobs added than tech degrees awarded over roughly the past five years. The tech talent pool in Milwaukee also skews heavily male, at 76%.

The top five cities on the 2019 Tech Talent Scorecard were: San Francisco Bay Area, California; Seattle; Toronto, Canada; Washington, D.C.; and New York City. Among nearby cities, Minneapolis ranked No. 17, Chicago ranked No. 21.

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Molly Dill
Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.