The Tech Sector — ‘Burgeoning’ or Flatling?

Source: “Cyberstates 2017,” Computing Technology Industry Association

Memo to business journalists working on the STEM beat in New Mexico: Cover the facts, not the hype.

The state’s media regularly report anecdotes about a tech firm starting up and/or hiring a few staffers. But the overall picture isn’t so bright.

CompTIA, “the world’s leading technology association,” is out with the 18th edition of “Cyberstates,” which “quantifies the size and scope of the tech sector and the tech workforce across multiple vectors.” How’s the Land of Enchantment doing? As the chart above indicates, not so great. Employment is trending slightly downward. But the results look even grimmer, when compared to the nation. Despite a weak recovery from the Great Recession, U.S. tech employment has risen since 2010, with software leading the way, at 7.6 percent growth. IT services/custom software is up 4.8 percent, and engineering services, R&D, and testing has grown by 2.7 percent.

What about the neighbors? Colorado leads the region, with 7.8 percent of its workforce in tech and positive job growth. Fans of federal “investment” are sure to note the presence of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is a “catalyst” for STEM work in the Centennial State. But how can they explain Utah’s performance? It has no national labs, and not a single federally funded research and development center. Yet tech employment in the state represents 6.4 percent of its workforce — a share that surpasses New Mexico’s 5.9 percent.

“Cyberstates” offers as bracing shot of reality, and should be required reading for reporters, editors, and producers who all too frequently fall for the “tech is booming in New Mexico” spin. However successful the grab-STEM-pork-from-D.C. approach was in the past, it’s not working anymore. New Mexico needs a new economic-development strategy to encourage the growth of tech firms and jobs here.