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New Annual Index Scores Wilmington's Tech Performance

By Johanna Cano, posted Dec 3, 2021
A new report from NC TECH Association shows how the state's mayor regions compare when it comes to tech talent and innovation.
A new report released by NC TECH Association describes the Wilmington region’s technology performance as “impressive” as it compares to more populated parts of the state and country.

The Tech Innovation Index released this week provides a national metro comparison that focuses on three areas: tech talent supply, tech talent demand and innovation.

Each of these three subindexes is made up of different metrics. Talent supply garnered more weight than the other subindexes because a group of state tech leaders found that it was “one the biggest factors in a tech business’ location decision,” the report stated.

Overall results show Durham-Chapel Hill and Raleigh-Cary lead in the state coming in at No. 6 and 7 in the report’s Tech Index Ranking.

To account for population differences, the report also provided a ranking based on population for the smaller metros that puts Wilmington in the 60th spot.

“Interestingly, several of the smaller metros in the state that fall outside of the top 105 metros in terms of population performed well,” the report stated. “Considering that Wilmington’s 2021 adult population ranked the metro 163rd out of all MSAs in the nation, it is quite impressive that the metro ranked as the 60th best metro for tech.”

Areas including Greensboro-High Point and Asheville followed, scoring the 77th and 93rd spot respectively.

The Tech Talent Supply Index included data such as the number of tech workers who live in the metro, the number of computer and math degrees present and tech skills present in the population.

In this ranking, Wilmington came behind Durham-Chapel Hill, Raleigh-Cary and Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia in the state and overall. When accounting for population, it ranked at No. 54.

Within the talent supply index, data shows that in Wilmington there are about 15.7 resident tech workers per 1,000 adults.

The Tech Talent Demand Index is an indicator of where tech companies and startups look for a thriving tech presence when they decide where they want to locate, the report stated.

Wilmington ranked at No. 63 and came in high in the state in the data sets showing the competitive effect of tech job growth (job growth that was higher than expected), annual tech job openings and turnover rates of tech workers.

The last subindex looks at tech innovation and evaluates the culture of R&D (research and development) and entrepreneurship.

Wilmington came in fifth in the state for innovation and ranked at No. 70 overall when accounting for population differences. Data looked at for innovation include patents, business-funded higher education research and development, SBIR/STTR funding per $1 million of gross area product and more.

Overall, innovation is where a lot of the smaller metros in the state did not fare as well as they did in the other subindexes. For this, the report recommends fostering more business R&D and entrepreneurship.

When asked about what stood out from the report’s findings, Ted Abernathy, managing partner of Economic Leadership, which created the report, said during a briefing Thursday that North Carolina has always been sophisticated in technology and there have been emerging regions.

“The rise in Wilmington, the rise in Asheville... we started this because we are seeing technology seeded all across our state and I think that is the thing to look for as we move forward,” he said.
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