The AeA, the high tech industry association formerly known as the American Electronics Association, released their annual Cybercities numbers today, which tries to count the number of high tech workers in different cities. The report is always interesting as a look at how big an area is or isn’t in the high tech industry. However, I wonder — given the limitations of government statistics and other sources of information like this — how accurate they can be.
In particular, looking at what the government usually defines as high tech employment — ie. engineering or related positions, at companies which classify themselves as high tech companies — most likely skips a great chunk of Southern California’s companies which identify themselves as “high tech.” A good example might be MySpace — which is arguably a media company, and is owned by Fox– although it uses the Internet as a basis of its operations. In addition, there are a slew of Internet content, Internet advertising, ecommerce, and other companies here which might be better classified as media, advertising, retailers, etc. — and mostly likely wouldn’t be put in the category of “high tech employer.” I haven’t seen the actual criteria behind these particular numbers, but I know if I were given the task of picking the correct SIC codes to try to define what is or isn’t a high tech company here, it would be fairly difficult.
It’s a much easier task when you’re talking traditional, hardware and software. It’s much harder when you’re talking about Internet companies. The report seems to reflect this — areas which actually have a lot of “IT” workers — New York (lots of IT developers working for financial services firms), Washington, DC. (fed. government and its contractors), and Dallas Fort-Worth (home of many, many IT consulting firms employing many bodies) rank in the top of this year’s list.