San Fran/San Jose tops in IT success ingredients

A new study that identifies which U.S. cities have the key elements to help fuel the development of IT workers, companies and new technologies gave the San Francisco/San Jose, California region top honors.

The other four top-ranked cities are Austin, Texas; Seattle; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; and San Diego, according to the study issued by the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. The PPI is a think tank for the Democratic Leadership Council, an organization for Democrats which was led by former President Bill Clinton during the late 1990s.

The PPI-commissioned study seeks to assess the degree to which each of the 50 largest U.S. largest U.S. metropolitan areas provide the necessary ingredients to drive the IT economy. The study assesses indicators like overall initial public offerings (IPOs), workforce education levels, broadband telecommunication providers, the number of commercial dot-com domain names compared to the overall number of businesses, overall patents issued and the number of science and engineering graduates from area colleges and universities.

The study ranks each city in 16 categories and the San Francisco/San Jose region comes in first in five of the categories, including venture capital funding, percentage of adults with Internet access at home or work, number of broadband providers per zip code and the number of companies, overall, going to initial public offering.

"The Bay area is just a preeminent region and scores so high on many of the factors," said Rob Atkinson, PPI's vice president and director of The Technology and New Economy Project. "It is like the Michael Jordan of the new economy. It is number one by a long shot. The only real weakness the Bay Area has, and it really can't be considered a weakness, is that it had less research and development from academic institutions ... and ranks 29th in degrees granted in science and engineering."

As far as information for IT infrastructure providers, the study shows that the San Francisco/San Jose has 4.5 broadband providers per zip code, which is 50 percent higher than the national average of 3 providers per zip code.

Austin ranked first only in one category: concentration of high tech jobs compared to overall jobs in the city. That may be attributed to SEMATECH (SEMiconductor MAnufacturing TECHnology), an Austin-based consortium of semiconductor companies, strong computer science and engineering programs at the University of Texas at Austin, the quality of life in the Texas capital city, affordable housing and sufficient technology infrastructure, Atkinson said.

Seattle, meanwhile, showed more of an international flair and ranked at the top for having the greatest link to the global economy and having the highest export sales per worker at $129,000 of any of the top 50 cities in the U.S. This is a key indicator of trade prospects for a city. The ranking is largely based on federal manufacturing data, Atkinson said, and partially is a reflection of The Boeing Co.'s presence in the city and Seattle's links to the Asian economy.

Raleigh-Durham ranked tops in two categories: degrees in science or engineering and industry-supported academic research and development. Industry poured more money into university research and development in Raleigh-Durham than into the colleges and universities in the San Francisco area, Atkinson said.

One noticeably missing city from the top five is Boston, which long has been viewed by many as a high-tech hub. Boston ranked eighth in the study.

"That was a surprise to us," Atkinson said. "Massachusetts ranked number one for states (in a 1999 study by PPI)."

Boston ranked second in industry money given for academic research and development, while it sat in the fourth spot for most companies going to IPO overall. Still, the study said the city faltered a bit in areas of computer use in school, 33rd, and the total number of Internet backbone links to other metropolitan areas, 37th -- a measure that can indicate the ability to transfer and host large amounts of data.

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