Scott Ball / Rivard Report
San Antonio ranks 46th among the top 50 North American markets when it comes to tech talent, according to a commercial real estate firm's annual ranking.
In the years since San Antonio climbed to No. 40 on CBRE's "Scoring Tech Talent" report, the city has seen its position drop to 45 in 2016, then to 47 last year.
San Antonio remains on the bubble, and its stagnation over the past three years should serve as a wake-up call to the local tech community, said David Heard, who heads the city's tech sector advocacy group Tech Bloc.
"We are growing but the other cities are not sitting still," he said. "Myopically, we could say, 'Look at our growth.' Yes, we’re growing, but perhaps we could be doing more."
Sitting just behind Nashville, Tennessee, with a score of 26.49, San Antonio bested the cities of Jacksonville, Florida; Norfolk, Virginia; Richmond, Virginia; and Miami, respectively.
Austin ranked sixth, Dallas 12th, and Houston 32nd.
Using government-compiled data from such agencies as the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the report looked at both the skill of tech sector workers and how expensive it is to employ them in U.S. and Canadian cities. Rankings also reflect the appeal of each market to employers and techies.
Area leaders have long lamented the brain drain that San Antonio experiences when its brightest graduates leave for places where opportunities that utilize their advanced skill sets are more abundant.
According to CBRE's report, however, San Antonio is treading water when it comes to retaining its tech talent.
The city awarded 4,396 tech degrees from 2011 to 2016 and added 4,710 tech jobs from 2012 to 2017 resulting in a "brain gain" of 314, according to the report.
Tech Bloc, with funding help from the City of San Antonio and Bexar County, in April hired Jeannine Wild as the area's first chief talent and recruitment officer. Part of Wild's charge will be to lure top talent away from the highest-ranking cities on the list, Heard said.
He predicts a migration of talent away from cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. – ranked first, second, and third, respectively – as affordability challenges continue to rise in those cities.
With its lower cost of living and increasing quality-of-life improvements, San Antonio has the opportunity to capitalize on that trend, he said.
"Any growing tech economy is not just going to be powered by new young people in the local workforce system," he said. "Any vibrant tech scene is also going to lure best and brightest from other cities."
If San Antonio can continue to offer more quality-of-life options, develop its startup scene, and recruit more high-level talent, it can leapfrog away from the bubble and into the top tier of cities for tech talent, Heard said.
The tech talent pool in San Antonio is made up of 31,180 workers, a 17.8 percent increase from 2012 to 2017, the report states.
Among smaller tech talent markets (cities with talent pools of 50,000 or fewer), San Antonio experienced the biggest jump in its millennial population from 2011 to 2016 with a 12.5 percent increase. That's more than Madison, Wisconsin (12.1 percent), and Cleveland (10.5 percent).
“We have a lot of young people in this town," Heard said. "If we can create pathways for them to enter the tech field, there’s a lot of good we can do right in our backyard."