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What are North America’s top-rated small tech talent markets?

What are the top small tech talent markets in North America? We found out using data from CBRE's 2022 Scoring Tech Talent report.

CBRE’s annual Scoring Tech Talent report is an invaluable resource for leaders and decision-makers looking to build talented tech teams and fulfill critical business objectives for success in the years ahead.

However, the report is an overwhelming 150-page analysis of labour market conditions, cost and quality in big and small tech markets across North America. If you’re exclusively looking for information about small tech talent markets – markets with a lower cost profile and higher quality of life – it can take time to sift through the charts, lists and data.

That’s where we come in. Waterloo EDC has combed through the data and extracted key information about North America’s top-rated small tech talent markets so you can make informed decisions about securing high-quality, low-cost tech talent.

Top-ranked small tech talent markets in North America

  1. Waterloo
  2. Pittsburgh
  3. Charlotte
  4. Calgary
  5. Orlando
  6. Madison
  7. Edmonton
  8. Indianapolis
  9. Quebec City
  10. Sacramento

These are the top-10 small tech talent markets via overall score in the CBRE Scoring Tech Talent report. CBRE ranks regions against one another using a combination of factors such as total tech talent workforce, tech talent workforce growth, cost and more. In the report, this is presented as a top-50 using all large and small markets, with the first 20 spots taken by large communities. Waterloo is the first small community to appear in the overall ranking.

Tech workforce size

  1. Pittsburgh (43,910)
  2. Sacramento (43,530)
  3. Orlando (42,860)
  4. Calgary (40,600)
  5. Cleveland (40,540)
  6. Indianapolis (40,120)
  7. Cincinnati (38,650)
  8. Nashville (36,110)
  9. Quebec City (35,700)
  10. Milwaukee (35,150)

CBRE separates large and small tech talent markets in its report based on the size of their tech talent labour pools. Small tech talent communities are classified as tech markets with less than 50,000 people. There is a strong correlation between overall score and tech talent workforce size, as several top-rated small tech talent markets appear in the list above.

For context, Waterloo is home to 24,000 tech workers, but it’s important to remember that our community is a key player in the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor, which boasts over 300,000 tech workers. No other small tech talent market is as close to a top-ranked large market as Waterloo is to Toronto.

Tech workforce growth rate

  1. Cleveland (25.4%)
  2. Orlando (16.8%)
  3. Jacksonville (16.2%)
  4. Indianapolis (13.2%)
  5. Milwaukee (13.1%)
  6. Sacramento (8.9%)
  7. Waterloo (8.1%)
  8. Richmond (5.4%)
  9. Cincinnati (4.9%)
  10. Hartford (4.8%)

Well, as they say, you can’t win ‘em all. In the tech workforce growth rate category, which is measured from 2016 to 2020, Waterloo is ranked seventh. This category measures the growth of a market’s tech workforce year over year. While we are behind other communities, a top ten showing in North America remains a good indicator of our potential and growth. Tops for Canada, too.

Tech talent density

  1. Waterloo (9.6%)
  2. Quebec City (9.0%)
  3. Madison (6.4%)
  4. Calgary (5.9%)
  5. Edmonton (5.7%)
  6. Hartford (4.8%)
  7. Milwaukee (4.5%)
  8. Sacramento and Richmond (4.4%)
  9. Pittsburgh and Cleveland (4.2%)
  10. Virginia Beach (4.1%)

Waterloo has been a leader in tech talent density across North America for years, with tech talent comprising 9.6% of total employment.

The average tech talent share of total employment for other North American markets is 5.6%, positioning Waterloo well above the rest. Tech talent concentration, otherwise known as the percentage of total employment, is an important and influencing factor in a tech market’s growth potential. Waterloo’s incredible concentration of highly skilled workers offers an environment conducive to innovation and success.

Tech talent pipeline growth rate

20- to 24-Year-Old Population Change by Market, 2015-2020

  1. Waterloo (12.1%)
  2. Edmonton (9.7%)
  3. Calgary (9.3%)
  4. Madison (6.7%)
  5. Indianapolis (4.7%)
  6. Quebec City (4.2%)
  7. San Antonio (4.0%)
  8. Hartford (1.9%)
  9. Nashville (1.8%)
  10. Cincinnati (1.1%)


25- to 39-Year-Old Population Change by Market, 2015-2020

  1. Waterloo (20%)
  2. Orlando (18.4%)
  3. San Antonio (16.5%)
  4. Jacksonville (14.1%)
  5. Nashville (13.0%)
  6. Sacramento (10.5%)
  7. Inland Empire (8.8%)
  8. Richmond (8.1%)
  9. Indianapolis (8.0%)
  10. Virginial Beach (7.8%)

Millennials are the largest demographic cohort in the workforce, while Gen Z fuels future growth. Waterloo excels in both of these categories, while several large and highly concentrated university markets like Pittsburgh and New York had declines in their younger populations. Waterloo appeals to the millennial and younger generations because of our high-tech talent concentration, diverse community and world-renowned culture of innovation. We also have one of the worlds best and biggest tech universities training the next generation of brilliant tech workers.

The data from CBRE showcase Waterloo’s appeal and make a strong case for locating, relocating or expanding your tech company to Waterloo. It’s evident that Waterloo is the prime location to build talented tech teams, fulfill business objectives and reach new heights.

Note: All statistics listed in this blog post were retrieved from CBRE Scoring Tech Talent 2022.

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