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North America’s top-ranked small tech talent markets

What are North America's top-ranked small tech talent markets? We've used CBRE data to identify the top-10 across five categories.

Every year, CBRE puts out its Scoring Tech Talent report and it’s nothing short of overwhelming. Nearly 150 pages of data, the report covers everything from tech workforce size and growth rate to talent density, costs and more.

While there is an overall ranking, it combines two categories – large and small tech talent markets – making it hard to parse if you’re primarily concerned about smaller communities with lower cost-of-living and higher quality-of-life.

Don’t worry – we have you covered.

We’ve gone through five of the ranking criteria to identify a) the top overall small tech talent markets (classified as having fewer than 50,000 tech workers) and b) the top small tech talent market in each category. This makes it substantially easier to align your company’s expansion plans or site search with the CBRE results.

First, here are the top-10 small tech talent markets by overall score:Top Small Tech Talent Markets in North America

These are the top 10 small tech talent markets via overall score in the CBRE Scoring Tech Talent report. The overall score uses a combination of all other factors – total talent workforce, tech talent workforce growth, cost, etc. – to simplify the ranking process. 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

Tech Workforce Size Small Tech Talent Markets

The small tech talent market category included communities with tech labour pools that are smaller than 50,000 people. The smallest community included is Rochester, at 20,840. As you can see, workforce size certainly has a strong correlation with the overall score, with three of the top five largest small tech talent markets appear in the top-5 for overall score. For reference, Waterloo is listed as having 25,900 tech workers, but we’re also part of the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor, which is home to more than 300,000 tech workers.

Tech workforce growth rate

Tech Workforce Growth Rate Small Tech Talent Markets

Two Canadian cities on top! Waterloo has been one of the fastest-growing tech communities in North America for years, according to CBRE reports. It’s unclear what’s driving this growth in Edmonton, but in Waterloo it’s attributable to the huge number of graduates coming from the University of Waterloo (more on that later) and an influx of talent from the Toronto area. Waterloo was the second-fastest growing community in Canada last year.

Tech talent density

Tech Talent Density Small Tech Talent Markets

Waterloo is at the top of this list and has been one of the highest-concentration tech communities in North America for years. Across all communities in the CBRE report, only three have a higher density of talent than Waterloo – the Bay Area, Toronto and Ottawa. The incredible thing is that this density is truly, VERY concentrated with the majority of the Waterloo tech ecosystem within a 10km/6.5mi area.

Tech operation costs*

Tech Operation Costs Small Tech Talent Markets

Canada leads the way on costs. Every single Canadian city shows up before the lowest cost option in the United States, which is Jacksonville. This shouldn’t be too surprising – everything is presented in American funds and companies have noted in the past that the exchange rate provides a substantial financial advantage. Waterloo, as the smallest Canadian community listed, isn’t a surprise as the least expensive among its peers. It’s also important to note that five Canadian communities – Waterloo, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal and Quebec City – are listed as having the lowest cost-of-living among all of the top-50 communities. Coming to Waterloo is a good financial decision for both companies and employees.

*The amount is based on estimated one-year company costs for an operation with 500 employees and a 75,000 square foot space.

Tech talent pipeline

Tech Grads Small Tech Talent Markets

Finally, where’s the talent coming from? Pittsburgh, with two strong tech universities within close proximity is the clear leader. Waterloo, on the strength of the University of Waterloo and, to a degree, Conestoga College, is the clear second. What this doesn’t capture is the fact that Waterloo is within about 100km/65mi of 17 post-secondary institutions producing about 10,000 additional tech graduates each year.

In fact, our proximity to a major centre like Toronto makes us an outlier across this entire report. Yes, we’re the #1 small tech talent market, but we’re also next door to the #4 large tech talent market. Yes, our tech workforce is smaller than the other small tech talent markets, but the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor has more than 300,000 tech workers. You have access to all this along with lower costs if you’re in Waterloo.

Want to learn more about the Waterloo tech ecosystem?