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Why Dallas-Fort Worth Is Fertile Ground For Tech Innovation

Dallas-Fort Worth might not have won the flashy Amazon HQ2 prize last year, but the region entered 2019 ahead of the game when it comes to tech innovation. 

Why Dallas-Fort Worth Is Fertile Ground For Tech Innovation

Tech companies and tech talent want to be here. Dallas Innovates reports that there are 24 corporate innovation centers in the region, including operations run by AT&T, Blue Cross Blue Shield, IBM, Microsoft, Nokia, Sabre, Samsung and Toyota, with more on the way.

Infosys unveiled plans in November to open its next tech innovation hub in Richardson, where by 2020 it will hire 500 workers who will have a special focus on the telecommunications, retail and banking sectors.

“Our investment in Texas will further improve our ability to serve clients by broadening the STEM talent pipeline here and provide training for the specialist skills that our clients need,” Infosys President Ravi Kumar said. 

The region's educational institutions are particularly important to Infosys’ workforce development efforts, Kumar said. 

Infosys will also benefit from access to corporations in various tech specialties and a deep pool of experienced tech talent in the Telecom Corridor. The corridor saw a strong year in 2018, with a net of about 750K SF of major leases, much (though not all) of which was taken by tech companies, the Richardson Economic Development Partnership reports.

Walmart also opted for the Metroplex last year as a site of tech innovation when it opened up its second internal innovation center, the first outside of its HQ in Arkansas. Called Walmart Technology, it is in Common Desk at Granite Park, a coworking space in Plano. 

Walmart Technology, which now has about 50 employees, focuses on innovation in the Internet of Things, computer vision and manufacturing, the overall goal of which is to make Walmart a more efficient retailer than it already is.

Why Dallas-Fort Worth? The Metroplex is relatively close to Bentonville, Arkansas, for one thing, and Walmart has had a presence in DFW for many years.

But it was more than that. According to Carlos Riojas, who runs Walmart Technology's Plano location, the company recruited at several universities across the nation, but had more hires from University of Texas at Dallas than any other university.

Dallas Skyline
Dallas skyline

The 2018 Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Innovation Study by the Dallas Regional Chamber, Accenture, SMU and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas found that the region owes its thriving innovation economy to a skilled and growing workforce, a collection of accelerators and coworking spaces, investment capital and robust academic institutions.

Nationally, DFW is competitive for tech innovation, though not at the top of the heap. One way to measure a region's potential for tech innovation is the number of tech jobs created there.

San Francisco and San Jose are still the U.S. standouts in job-creation in four key digital services industries — software publishing, data processing and hosting, computer systems design, and web publishing/search, The Brookings Institution reported in 2017.

But that isn't the entire picture.

"Far from the Bay Area lie exciting hot spots in regular America," the report says. "Cities like Dallas, Phoenix and Indianapolis are coming into their own, with Dallas adding 15,000 tech jobs in the last two years."

Between 2013 and 2015, the compounded annual growth rate of tech jobs in the Metroplex grew a healthy 9%, though an updated report last year found that the DFW region's share of the national tech industry was down a bit.

Even so, the Dallas-Fort Worth tech sector, and the innovation economy that it serves, remain strong by a number of metrics. 

CBRE Research's 2018 Scoring Tech Talent put Dallas-Fort Worth at No. 12 nationally in its Tech Talent Scorecard Ranking, which uses 13 metrics to measure a market's depth and attractiveness to tech companies. That is ahead of many other mid-ranking tech markets, such as San Diego, Chicago and Portland, Oregon.

The Metroplex's total tech labor pool is also very large, coming in fifth in North America, after only the Bay Area, New York, Washington, D.C., and Toronto. Between 2012 and 2017, the Metroplex's total tech labor pool grew by 15.3%, according to CBRE.