Apr 28, 2022 - Business

Tech workers are moving to NWA, but growth is slow

Brookings Institution and U.S. Census; Map: Thomas Oide/Axios

The rise of remote work has provided an opportunity for metro areas, including NWA, to lure tech talent from coastal hubs and claim a bigger slice of that workforce.

Driving the news: A report from the Brookings Institution and LinkedIn data tracking tech migration paint a similar picture: Tech workers flocked to a handful of new hubs, many of them in the Sun Belt, during the pandemic, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill and Erica Pandey write.

Zoom in: Northwest Arkansas' tech jobs per capita grew at a modest 2.4% between 2019 and 2020. That ranked the region at No. 42 out of 100 large metros in the country, according to Brookings.

What they're saying: G.B. Cazes, an IT workforce consultant for the Northwest Arkansas Council, told Axios there are 2,500 tech job openings in NWA — a quarter of all job openings — with companies ranging from Fortune 100s to startups.

  • The Northwest Arkansas Council is working to attract talent through its Life Works Here incentive program and marketing, Cazes said.
  • But the need is so great, the council is also working with local educational institutions to help develop training programs that get people into IT jobs quicker than a four-year degree.

Yes, but: A kink in the regional talent pipeline is that remote work means tech workers who live in NWA can work for any company outside the region, Cazes said.

  • The area isn't just competing to draw talent, but working to retain the workers who already live here.

The intrigue: Nearby Lawrence, Kan., and Sherman, Texas, both ranked high in the Brookings' growth data for tech jobs per capita (No. 1 and No. 5, respectively), showing that the center of the U.S. can draw talent from other markets.

Of note: A recent Heartland Forward study showed between 2010 and 2019, workers were slowly migrating from the coasts to the 20 central states that make up the heartland.


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