A Top Tech City, But Austin Needs More STEM Workers

7/11/13Follow @juliehuls

When President Barack Obama decided to use Austin, TX, as a platform to discuss the United States’ future in technology this May, it came as no surprise to those who call Austin’s technology sector home. Over the past decade, Austin has branched out beyond its Silicon Hills moniker to become the world’s preferred innovation destination. Everything from startup incubation and co-working centers like Capital Factory to industry standards like Applied Materials have settled on the shores of Lady Bird Lake, embedding technology so deeply into the city that much of the local economy now depends on it.

Perhaps due to the Texas tenets of self-reliance and entrepreneurship—and certainly due to a community predilection toward creativity and innovation—Austin’s technology sector is a varied and diverse industry. No longer a sleepy university town cranking out microchips, the capital of Texas is now home to everything from social media companies employing a handful of people, to life science innovators with global influence, to software giants with workforces consisting of thousands of employees.

As the president and CEO of the Austin Technology Council, it is perhaps no surprise that I would extol the powerful symbiosis between Austin and technology. We serve as the connection between the private and public sectors; the council is where research and development intersects with innovation and creation. Given this, we recently sought to do some research into just how important technology is to the Austin economy.

While Austin’s cultural and lifestyle attributes are important to its development, it is the diversity and depth of Austin’s tech sector that has led to the city’s growth as a power player. Last month, we released our Technology Economic Impact Report, the results of which detailed the critical role technology plays in the Austin metropolitan area. Today, technology companies employ more than 100,000 individuals, accounting for more than 9 percent of the city’s total work force. With a median income of $155,000 per year, tech professionals and their colleagues pump an estimated $21 billion through every facet of the local economy each year. In addition to homegrown tech, global brands like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Visa are setting down roots in Austin, bringing not only jobs but also a serious demand for talent.

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Julie Huls is the CEO and president of the Austin Technology Council. Her prior roles include vice president of operations for McCombs Enterprises and marketing and operations director for Dwyer Realty Companies. She also served as executive director and advertising consultant for Talk Media, an advertising agency in Austin Follow @juliehuls

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