10 Best Cities for Tech Workers (SURPRISE!)

By Phill Powell

San Francisco? Nope. New York? Fuggedaboutit

If you really want to know about the best U.S. cities for tech workers, you need to readjust your geography. That’s according to a new study from SmartAsset, which not only takes into consideration salary data, but also factors in a city’s cost of living index.

So Who Did Make the List?
Instead, this list skews more toward the Midwest, the Sun Belt and the South…in areas that are unexpectedly rich in tech occupations but also offer more affordable places to live. Such as:

10. St. Louis, Missouri

Average Salary: $79,170
Percent of Workforce in Tech: 3.3%
Cost of Living Index: 90.4
Why It Ranks: With a workforce that has more than 40,000 tech jobs, St. Louis has lots more going for it than just that oversized arch. A magnet for tech startups, St. Louis has a downtown tech lab/shared working space called TREX that encourages tech growth.

9. Houston, Texas

Average Salary: $88,230
Percent of Workforce in Tech: 2.9%
Cost of Living Index: 92.2
Why It Ranks: Houston’s called “Space City” because of its close and historic ties to the space exploration industry, but biomedical research is coming on strong. Think about it: Some 24 “Fortune 500″ are based in Houston, driving a workforce of 80,000 tech workers.

8. Columbus, Ohio

Average Salary: $78,790
Percent of Workforce in Tech: 4.0%
Cost of Living Index: 92.0
Why It Ranks: Columbus is home not only to Ohio State University, which excels in tech as it does in college football, but also to the Ohio Supercomputer Center (pictured), a mecca for those who want to learn programming. With a cost of living that’s nearly 10 percent lower than the national average, Columbus definitely has its charm for tech workers.

7. Des Moines, Iowa

Average Salary: $76,840
Percent of Workforce in Tech: 3.8%
Cost of Living Index: 90.9
Why It Ranks: In last year’s rankings, Des Moines was listed at No. 15. This year the city improved its tech profile with the creation of more than 700 tech jobs in 2014. City also benefits from very low unemployment; if you’ve got a B.A. degree, there’s a 97.4 percent chance that you’re working. Not bad.

6. Lynchburg, Virginia

Average Salary: $79,440
Percent of Workforce in Tech: 2.6%
Cost of Living Index: 95.1
Why It Ranks: You wouldn’t think of Lynchburg as a tech hub, but the area is rife with research into nuclear power and advanced technologies. If you’ve got needed tech skills, you will find a warm welcome here, where tech workers typically earn double what the average Lynchburg worker makes.

5. Rochester, Minnesota

Average Salary: $83,940
Percent of Workforce in Tech: 4.8%
Cost of Living Index: 99.2
Why It Ranks: Two words: Mayo Clinic. Quite possibly the most respected hospital in the U.S. calls Rochester home. The Mayo Clinic is the city’s biggest employer and a large percentage of its 35,000 jobs are tech in nature. Some 5,000 tech workers live in Rochester, with many of them working for IBM, the second-biggest local employer.

4. Fort Worth, Texas

Average Salary: $83,900
Percent of Workforce in Tech: 2.6%
Cost of Living Index: 91.1
Why It Ranks: Fort Worth’s tech jobs come primarily from aviation and military contracts. The heaviest hitter is Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, which employs 13,000 tech workers alone. Other local tech havens include Bell Helicopter and American Airlines.

3. Springfield, Illinois

Average Salary: $84,530
Percent of Workforce in Tech: 2.3%
Cost of Living Index: 85.8
Why It Ranks: As a state capital, Springfield has a flood of tech jobs that need doing. Add to that a cost of living that’s nearly 15 percent below the U.S. average. Home prices are very reasonable, too (the average home purchased in 2014 cost just $122,000).

2. Huntsville, Alabama

Average Salary: $89,050
Percent of Workforce in Tech: 6.5%
Cost of Living Index: 91.2
Why It Ranks: Like Ft. Worth, Huntsville is a military town that also has a thriving aerospace research industry. This accounts for the town having more than 13,000 tech workers – way more per capital than some larger Southern cities.

…and the nation’s best city to work in tech (according to SmartAsset):

1. Omaha, Nebraska

Average Salary: $74,710
Percent of Workforce in Tech: 3.7%
Cost of Living Index: 88.3
Why It Ranks: And then there’s Omaha, a modern boom town blessed with the two most important things: low cost of living and low unemployment. The cost of living in Omaha is nearly 12 percent lower than the national average. And virtually everybody’s working. Overall unemployment was only 2.7 percent (as of April 2015) – lower than what economists call “full employment.”

And then there are the plentiful local tech industries: PayPal, LinkedIn, TD Ameritrade, Union Pacific Railroad, ConAgra Foods, Green Plains Renewable Energy and super-investor Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. Plus biomedical research at the University of Nebraska Omaha (pictured).

How plugged in is Omaha? No less than six national fiber networks converge there. All this and more from the town that brought you Raisin Bran, the TV dinner, ski lifts and the Reuben sandwich.

If you want to see the entire list and see the other 15 cities listed, check out the full SmartAsset tech city list.

Tech World
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