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Opinion: Tech sector a bright spot in Missouri’s economy

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The technology sector is booming in the Show Me State.

I recently sat in on a virtual news conference hosted by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry to unveil the organization’s latest Technology2030 report findings.

The report, commissioned by the chamber and conducted by North Carolina consulting firm Economic Leadership LLC, makes one thing exceedingly clear: Tech is a bright spot in Missouri’s economy, and the growing sector stands to benefit its residents.

Take, for example, the salary data presented in the report.

In 2022, average annual earnings per tech worker came in at $123,800, which was around 1.7 times higher than the $72,300 average for workers across all industries statewide. The Missouri tech industry had 158,870 employees as of 2022, and between 2021 and 2022, there was a 2.5% increase in net tech jobs. The new jobs number exceeds 15,000 over the past five years, trailing only transportation/warehousing and construction in industry growth statewide.

Further, the tech sector creates or supports 1.82 jobs for every position it adds, according to the report. Ted Abernathy, founder and managing partner of Economic Leadership, said during the news conference that this ancillary job creation is due, in part, to the excellent wages in the tech sector.

“It’s an industry where the ripple effect is greater than almost every other industry,” he said.

According to the report, the tech industry in 2022 made up $38 billion in gross state product, equating to around 10% of Missouri’s economic output.

“We think these numbers will accelerate over time,” said Abernathy.

There lies the opportunity.

With a predicted increase in the state’s tech industry, the Springfield region has the ability to carve out its share of the incoming increase in economic activity. And residents will benefit, too, from increased wages.

With the tech sector, it seems like we have a rising tide to lift all boats situation on our hands.

And it’s not just urban areas.

“Rural areas have a real opportunity in the manufacturing technology sector,” Abernathy said. “Missouri has deep growing technological companies.”

Abernathy called tech manufacturing a highlight in the report, which indicated the subsector has been outpacing national job averages consistently since 2011.

It would be great to see homegrown and out-of-the-area companies make additional investments in Springfield to tap into the promise of a bright tech future.

Market share is there for the taking, and Springfield is well poised to take advantage of that with its existing advantages, like lower-than-average expenses. Attracting and retaining talent in the area continues to be a challenge, but higher wages are a great start.

It will be interesting to see how the Technology2030 report continues to evolve as the Missouri chamber forms decisions in response.

Springfield Business Journal Digital Editor Geoff Pickle can be reached at gpickle@sbj.net.

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