23 Jun Cyber Cities: Milwaukee ranks 34th nationally in high-tech employment
Milwaukee, Wis. – There are a number of initiatives to promote technology job growth in Milwaukee, including the new Milwaukee-Institute and more intense efforts to transfer technology out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but a new report on the nation’s Cyber Cities is providing even more justification for them.
Metropolitan Milwaukee ranks 34th nationally in high-tech employment and a disappointing 55th in high-tech job growth, according to the 2008 Cyber Cities report issued by the American Electronics Association.
The report, an overview of the technology industries in the nation’s top 60 cities, includes metrics for four counties in metropolitan Milwaukee. It is largely based on information taken form the U.S. Census Bureau.
Milwaukee has 33,750 high tech jobs in 1,628 establishments in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha counties. Those organizations have a combined payroll of $2.3 billion, according to the report.
Milwaukee is well down the list in several other categories: 44th in high-tech employment concentration and 42nd in high-tech average wage, but in terms of high-tech jobs it fares well against comparably sized Midwestern cities like Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Cleveland.
John Byrnes, executive managing director of Mason Wells, said the findings are consistent with his expectations of Milwaukee’s standing among other cities. Milwaukee’s technological capability was something he had in mind when helping to form the Milwaukee Institute, a collaboration platform for public and private research organizations in southeastern Wisconsin. The institute will develop and maintain a cyber-infrastructure to support the collaborative research of scientists and engineers.
“I think the problem with Milwaukee with respect to high-tech employment is that we do not have, except for healthcare, industries that typically employ high-tech people,” Byrnes said. “For example, we do not have computer manufacturers. We do not have telecommunications. We do not have aerospace-defense. We do not have the pharmaceutical industry, so none of those industries are present to any great degree in this area.
What the institute is attempting to do, he said, is find a high-tech component in the industries currently located here.
For comparison’s sake
The Cyber Cities review measures high-tech jobs, wages, and businesses. Most of data is from 2006, the most recent year available.
In metropolitan Milwaukee, the downward employment trend continues. The area has lost 3,800 high-tech jobs since it hit the 37,600 mark in 2001, but that moderated to about 200 fewer high-tech jobs between 2005 and 2006. In 2006, high-tech firms employed 46 out of every 1,000 private-sector workers in Milwaukee.
Most of Milwaukee’s high-tech jobs come in manufacturing, which accounts for 32 percent of the area’s technology employment. That is followed by communications services, 32 percent; software services, 24 percent; and engineering and technology services, 16 percent.
Employment in computer systems design and related services dropped by 300, from 7,600 to 7,300, between 2005 and 2006.
However, employment in engineering services and Internet services saw increases, especially engineering services. That sector experienced a one-year surge of 1,300 new jobs, rising from 3,600 positions to 4,900 positions.
Meanwhile, the number of jobs in Internet services increased modestly from 4,800 to 4,900.
The average high-tech wage in metropolitan Milwaukee is $67,210, compared to the overall private sector wage of $41,855.
National, regional players
Nationally, AeA reported 5.8 million high-tech jobs in 2006, with the New York metropolitan area leading the way with 316,000 jobs, a 2.1 percent increase. New York was followed by Washington, D.C., 295,000 jobs, up 2.1 percent; San Jose/Silicon Valley, 225,000, up 2.7 percent; Boston, 191,000, up 2.2 percent; Dallas-Fort Worth, 176,000, 1.8 percent; and Los Angeles, 171,200, 1.8 percent.
The highest average wage in the high-tech sector, $144,828, came in San Jose-Silicon Valley, followed by nearby San Francisco, $118,518, and Austin, Texas, $100,536.
Milwaukee finished well behind several Midwestern counterparts, including: Chicago (seventh), 164,000 jobs, up 1.4 percent; Detroit, 115,082 jobs, down three percent; Minneapolis-St. Paul (15th), 98,059 jobs, flat growth rate; Kansas City, 62,118 jobs, up three percent; St. Louis, 52,777 jobs, up 5.1 percent; and Columbus, Ohio, 40,718, up two percent.
However, Milwaukee outpaced several of its Midwest counterparts of comparable size, including: Cleveland, 31,624, flat growth; Cincinnati 30,207, up three percent; and Indianapolis, 28,503, up two percent.
With 11,000 high-tech businesses, Chicago reported the most high-tech establishments among midwestern cities. St. Louis, with its 5.1 percent high-tech job growth rate, was the fastest-growing midwestern city.
The Midwest region, home to 12 of the top 60 cities, ranks second only to California in terms of high-tech employment, with 693,000 jobs.
UWM Research Dean Colin Scanes said the information in the report is consistent with observations contained in the book “Caught in the Middle,” in which author Richard Longworth stresses the importance of the innovation economy in the Midwest. His point was that cities like Chicago and smaller cities are doing very well in terms of the innovation economy; meanwhile, the city he was most concerned about was Detroit. Cities like Milwaukee and Cleveland are in another category and their future “depends on what we do,” Scanes said.
Scanes believes this gives more impetus to what UWM is trying to accomplish with its Research Growth Initiative, an attempt to boost technology transfer in Milwaukee, what the Milwaukee Institute is doing to foster collaborative research, and what the state is doing to promote early-stage venture capital deployment.
The UWM Research Foundation and MPP Group of Wauwatosa recently announced a license agreement for compounds that may treat and control alcohol addiction. MPP Group, a biopharmaceutical firm led by chief executive Frank Langley, will develop the compounds with the intent of producing an Food and Drug Adminstration-approved therapeutic agent for the treatment of alcohol addiction.
“What we’re pleased about is that it’s a serial entrepreneur in southeast Wisconsin,” Scanes said, “and we’re anticipating that this could be a really exciting discovery in terms of a new class of drugs.”
While this is an example of life science, Byrnes said every industry has a high-tech component, but some have a larger piece of it than others. He said aerospace, telecom, and computers are more prevalent in Chicago, military-defense has a presence in St. Louis and Kansas City, and Detroit has a higher density of technology people due to the work being done with onboard electronics in the automobile industry.
He said the Milwaukee Institute would identify “grand-challenge” problems in the local business community that require high-tech solutions. “We’re going to focus people’s attention on these problems,” he said, “and then support interdisciplinary collaboration to solve them using web-based server software that will help to promote collaboration and sharing of computing resources.”
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