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IT jobs market booming in the Southwest

Lamont Wood | Feb. 10, 2015
We look at the prospects for both hiring managers and job seekers in the first in a series of reports examining IT labor markets across the country.

Technology arrived in San Antonio just as early -- in fact, the PC industry was born there. Founded in 1968 with local investments, Computer Terminal Corp. (later renamed Datapoint) began shipping the Datapoint 2200 desktop computer in 1971. The company could have used a chip from fellow startup Intel, but chose not to wait for Intel to reduce its processor to a single chip. Intel eventually put that chip on the market as the 8008, which was later enhanced to the 8080 and then the 8086 and so on, sparking the x86 microprocessor dynasty.

For its part, Datapoint was unable to compete with the subsequent flood of x86-based PCs, but the company's dissolution didn't have too much of an effect on San Antonio's tech sector, thanks in part to the area's large military economy.

Founded originally as a frontier garrison, San Antonio still hosts several large U.S. Army and Air Force installations, recently including the headquarters of the 24th Air Force, which handles cybersecurity and cyber combat for the U.S. Air Force.

Beyond the numbers

But jobs, salaries, the cost of living, weather and taxes turn out to be increasingly superficial considerations. "Today the trend, very specific to the millennial generation, is to first decide where to live and then find a job there," says Gomez. And what young people look for are cities where they can walk to work and walk to stores, restaurants and recreational sites. "They do not want to be beholden to a car," he notes, and therefore they prefer high-density urban areas.

Weston agrees, saying, "They want to live in a vibrant urban core, with high-quality and affordable housing, plenty of restaurants and bars and music clubs and other entertainment venues, good parks and bike paths and other outdoor recreation, and good public transit options."

Many locales in the Southwest may not fit the bill. The region has what Gomez calls "sprawl cities," spreading over cheap land to the horizon, making a car indispensable. However, both Austin and San Antonio are trying to do something about that.

In Austin, city leaders have been promoting high-density development since the late 1990s, leading to projects in the downtown area and east of Interstate 35 (which runs north to south just east of downtown) and south of the Colorado River (which runs east to west just south of downtown), says Long.

In San Antonio high-density development has been underway along recent extensions of the River Walk, both north and south of the downtown tourist district, says Gomez. Weston, who is a real estate developer as well as head of Rackspace, says he is personally involved in such development.


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