The high-tech industry has accounted for about one-fifth of major office-leasing activity in the U.S. since 2018—more than any other industry. With its access to labor, higher education pipeline and relative affordability, Chicago is poised to capitalize from a recent top-three ranking among North American markets for attracting tech workers.
According to CBRE’s annual Scoring Tech Talent Report, Chicago came in third as there were clear signs of tech talent momentum in specific markets. The ranking measures growth acceleration across 50 U.S. and Canadian markets, specifically the ability of each market to attract and grow tech talent.
Chicago’s tech talent labor force grew 8 percentage points faster in the last two years (2017 and 2018) than the previous two-year period (2015 and 2016). The report found that, over the past five years, the 10 fastest-growing markets increased their tech labor pools by between 33 and 54 percent.
“Chicago’s tech market has seen a lot of organic growth and a tremendous amount of growth from coastal companies expanding here, particularly firms from California,” said Brad Serot, vice chairman with CBRE and member of the firm’s tech and media practice group. “Labor has been the big driver of this.”
Since 2013, Chicago’s tech labor pool has grown 10.5 percent to 166,620, making it the sixth largest tech market in the country in terms of total employment. Another factor in the city’s favor is that tech degree completions in Chicago have grown 36.9 percent from 2012 and 2017, with 7,375 degrees completed in 2017.
“Chicago is the top city for attracting talent from the Big 10 university system, which boasts two of the top 10 computer science schools in the nation and three of the top 10 engineering schools,” Serot said. “Tech firms need to recruit the best and brightest and Chicago provides the dynamic employee base to sustain growth now, and in the future.”
In addition, Chicago remains more affordable when compared to coastal cities. According to the report, the annual cost for a 500-employee, 75,000-square-foot office in Chicago is approximately $40 million, far below the most expensive markets of San Francisco ($59M), New York ($55M), Washington D.C. ($51M) and Seattle ($50M).
“It didn’t happen overnight, but Chicago’s tech ecosystem has matured to the point where opportunities are countless across all stages of the spectrum, from startups and growth stage companies to the more established Fortune 500 businesses,” said Dan Lyne, senior vice president and member of the tech and media practice group for CBRE. “Combined with a steady and robust infusion of various capital sources, and a more seasoned pool of serial tech leadership, the city has become a powerful magnet for tech talent and businesses alike seeking a top tier global city that still maintains an affordable cost of living.”
Chicago’s position on the list followed top-two markets Orlando and San Diego. The remaining metros in the top ten after Chicago were Cleveland; Long Island, New York; Denver; Portland; Los Angeles; Detroit and Hartford, Connecticut.