With a tech workforce increase of 26% from 2017 to 2022, according to a July 2023 Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis (CBRE) report, Orlando ranked 28th among the top 50 U.S. and Canadian tech markets in CBRE’s overall “tech talent scorecard ranking.”


CBRE’s process of determining various’ markets competitive advantages, as well as how effective they were in attracting and growing talent, examined 13 different metrics, such as tech talent concentration, educational attainment level, and concentration of young people (recognized as those in their 20s and 30s), among others.


Although the City Beautiful is traditionally known as America’s theme park capital, thanks to the technology created by local talent that helped create those world-famous theme park attractions, the nearby Space Coast, and a modeling and simulation community largely focused on military training, Orlando’s reputation as a tech hub has grown over the years.


Orlando has multiple factors working in its favor to attract talent, according to Dr. Neal Finkelstein, chief operating officer for the National Center for Simulation.


“First, the infusion of federal and state dollars attracts companies to Orlando,” Finkelstein said. “We also have Team Orlando and [significant representation] from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, which bring about $7 billion a year to Central Florida, and that’s attractive to businesses who pursue those contracts. A lot of people also come to enjoy the warm weather, the beaches, outdoor activities, and the theme parks, all of which support a good family atmosphere.”


The report noted that while technology businesses have historically located their offices in areas that offered the most available, qualified talent, nowadays, employers have shifted focus to attracting tech workers with specific skills. The most in-demand skill in most tech markets is software engineering.


“Tech talent remains in high demand despite economic uncertainty and employment reductions,” according to the CBRE report, which also considered tech employees working in industries that are not traditionally perceived as tech-centric, such as insurance, health care and finance.


Graduates with tech degrees don’t always stay where they received their education. In fact, many relocate to competitive markets that offer the most opportunities and maximized pay potential. However, “tech clusters” also tend to form near significant universities that promote innovation, according to CBRE, and can represent a consistent source of new hiring talent for companies in those clusters.


“It’s been great that University of Central Florida, Seminole and Valencia have been able to implement programs that attract a lot more people,” Finkelstein said. “There’s a wide variety of tech programs people can get involved with, whether it’s gaming, healthcare, the spaceport, or the technology involved with the cruise industry.”


Tech clusters can also coalesce around innovative, leading firms that attract other tech businesses to a specific area, which can help establish its own tech ecosystem and further promote innovation.


Hiring employees with specific tech skills generally requires paying higher wages, and that can present a challenge to non-tech businesses hiring tech workers. The CBRE report categorizes the San Francisco Bay Area (which includes Silicon Valley) as a large tech talent market and ranks it #1 overall. In the Bay Area, the average wage for tech talent is $185,425 per year. The report recognizes Orlando as a small tech talent market, defined as a market with less than 50,000 tech employees, and lists the average tech worker’s annual income as $73,978.


“Retaining talent is always tough, especially when tech workers have security clearances that give them several options,” Finkelstein said. “Employers creating a nice work atmosphere and providing continuing education opportunities are both important, but tech employees also need the satisfaction of challenging work they can’t find elsewhere. For example, if you’re in cyber and you’re working on a military program, you get to face challenges you’re never going to see at Google or Apple.”


Click here to read the original CBRE report.

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