Top cities for global trade
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
Population: 132,609 | Unemployment: 4.9 percent | Top University: College of Charleston
Little more than two years ago, the Milken Institute ranked the Charleston region the ninth-best performing economy in the U.S. due in large part to a growing IT sector populated by the likes of Blackbaud, SPARC and CSS. Helping to facilitate that growth since 2003, the Charleston Digital Corridor has been assisting companies with their technical hiring needs, utilizing a talent portal focused exclusively on the city’s burgeoning tech community.
Population: 388,072 | Unemployment: 5.5 percent | Top University: Case Western Reserve University
The city, which started to see an uptick in commercial real estate purchases about a decade ago, has continued to look optimistically ahead—whether it’s the adoption of a citywide effort to promote renewable energy, clean air and green space or the appointment of a “tech czar” to recruit technology companies to the downtown office market. Likewise, Cleveland State: University hired a technology transfer officer to facilitate technology transfers from CSU research to marketable ideas for companies in the Cleveland area.
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA
Population: 257,636 | Unemployment: 4.7 percent | Top University: Duke University
Durham makes up one point of North Carolina’s prestigious Research Triangle and is home to Research Triangle Park, where more than 200 companies employ 50,000 workers. That site includes the second largest IBM operation in the world and similarly sizeable operations for GlaxoSmithKline and Cisco Systems. But there’s room for those just getting started and Durham’s relatively low cost of living is attracting plenty of startup talent. Durham is one of the few major U.S. cities where women’s median earnings exceed men’s.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Population: 3,971,883 | Unemployment: 5.2 percent | Top University: UCLA
L.A. may have been a little late to the tech party but it has more than made up for it with the development of such superstar outfits as Oculus VR, Maker Studios and SpaceX. That kind of talent and energy gets noticed and more than $2 billion in investment flowed into L.A. in 2014, a 25 percent jump over the previous year. In fact, L.A. now ranks in the top five worldwide for attracting venture investment, just behind New York and ahead of London and Beijing.
Population: 246,393 | Unemployment: 4.5 percent | Top University: Old Dominion
With the second largest concentration of engineers in the country, it’s not surprising that Norfolk is teeming with all manner of labs and research facilities. Let’s see: there’s the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, the Virginia Applied Technology and Professional Development Center and ODU Innovations Research Park. The latter consists of two 100,000-square-foot labs designed to leverage the access, proximity and infrastructure of ODU, the surrounding federal labs and military centers that aid companies at every point in their lifecycle.
Population: 443,885 | Unemployment: 3.5 percent | Top University: Creighton University
Way back in 2001, Omaha had already been identified as a high-tech haven. The city, where six national fiber optic networks converge, is home to the headquarters or major operations of the likes of First Data, PayPal and LinkedIn. Sectors such as telecommunications and architecture—it’s home to three of the 30 largest architecture firms in the U.S.—have grown dramatically since the early 1990s. Omaha not only ranks eighth in per capita Fortune 500 companies (five) but in per-capita billionaires.
Population: 270,934 | Unemployment: 4.5 percent | Top University: University of Central Florida
Yeah, you see Orlando and you think Disney World but the area enjoys a healthy $13.4 billion technology industry that employs more than 53,000 people. In fact, Orlando’s Central Florida Research Park is the seventh largest such facility in the U.S., home to more than 120 companies, and is the hub of the nation’s military simulation and training programs. The city is also recognized as a cluster of innovation in digital media, aerospace and software design with more than 150 international companies having facilities there.
Population: 1,567,448 | Unemployment: 6.9 percent | Top University: University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia’s Innovation Lab for technology development encourages collaboration with high schools and universities to mentor students and increase participation in STEM-related education. The city’s “Green City, Clean Waters” initiative is a 25-year plan to reduce storm water pollution, improve air quality and divert waste that will ultimately improve efficiency and save money. A land bank created in 2013 aims to clean up blighted neighborhoods by acquiring and selling the city’s 40,000 vacant and derelict lots to be developed for local businesses, affordable housing and community space.
Population: 1,563,025 | Unemployment: 5.3 percent | Top University: Arizona State
Arizona State, which has campuses in Phoenix and Tempe, is a big reason this city is traditionally near the top for startups. ASU’s The Edson Initiative, one of the largest privately funded business plan competitions at a U.S. university, offers students teams funding, office space, mentorship and training to accelerate their venture concepts. Not surprisingly, ASU ranks near the top for global student entrepreneurs. The world has noticed: Phoenix ranks 19th internationally for attracting venture capital investment.
Population: 60,598 | Unemployment: 3.6 percent | Top University: University of Washington
Just because it’s located 15 miles east of Seattle, don’t assume that Redmond is just some municipal hanger-on. It has a vibrant tech ecosystem all its own anchored by the behemoth that is Microsoft. Not only does Microsoft have many tens of thousands of employees at its Redmond headquarters—where it relocated 30 years ago—but it also regularly hosts events and competitions for the best and brightest students from around the world. Nintendo of America has its headquarters in Redmond and, last year, SpaceX announced it would open a R&D and manufacturing facility there.
Top cities for global trade