See how the Ann Arbor area compares to other US technology hubs

ANN ARBOR – Ann Arbor SPARK recently released the third iteration of its benchmarking report on the Ann Arbor region.

The purpose of the report is to compare Ann Arbor with regions that are competitive to our region in order to attract growing industrial companies and in-demand knowledge workers, including Boulder, Colorado, Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas.

The report includes clear, unbiased data and regional analysis for a number of eight metrics:

  • University of R&D

  • Population movement

  • Share of remote jobs (new for 2020)

  • Venture capital activity

  • Affordability of housing

  • Percent in poverty and ALICE (instead of income inequality from previous reports)

  • Employment in the driving industry

  • labour market

“It makes sense to use impartial data to compare our region to similar communities across the country,” said Paul Krutko, CEO and President of Ann Arbor SPARK.

“It provides an objective assessment of the region’s success, confirms Ann Arbor’s status as a magnet for innovation and talent, and identifies opportunities for improvement.”

Remarkable results

Ann Arbor continues to hold the top rank for university research and development – the amount every university spends on research and development. This metric is a valuable indicator of a region’s propensity to take risks, prove ideas, and expand the innovation pipeline.

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In addition, R&D funds help build a research channel for future innovations and feed a region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In the remaining metrics, Ann Arbor rated:

  • Ranked third in population movement, or net migration, after fifth in 2018. Washtenaw County is still Michigan’s most popular destination for moving companies.

  • Third for the percentage of remote jobs, a new metric for 2020. The high rank implies that many existing jobs in Washtenaw County are technology-based and can be easily done from home, which with the increasing number of tech jobs in matches Washtenaw County’s economy.

  • Third place for venture capital activities up from fourth place in 2018. Due to population control, Ann Arbor continues to rise above the rest.

  • Fourth, for the affordability of housing, a sharp increase from ninth place in 2018. Although Washtenaw County is perceived as an expensive housing market, this is a result of comparing it with cities in the Midwest and the Rust Belt. However, when compared to Austin, Berkeley, Boulder, and Portland, Ann Arbor is relatively inexpensive.

  • Fourth, for percent of the population in poverty and ALICE. This new metric replaced the income inequality previously analyzed. Together with other key figures such as affordability of housing and unemployment, the picture of the competitive environment is significantly different. It is necessary to include in the report to understand that while many of these regions are featured on the “Best Places” lists and touted as high-growth technology economies, these benefits are not being used by all.

  • Ninth in employment in the driving industry, down from seventh in 2018.

  • Sixth in unemployment, as in 2018, and tenth in labor force participation, up from eleventh in 2018. These key labor market metrics are important to understanding what the post-COVID economic recovery will mean for job seekers.

The 2020 report is the first to break down the aggregated data by race in the “Benchmarking the Gap” section.

“Aggregate statistics are sometimes useful, but they tend to hide different opportunities,” said the report’s author, Alex West, director of research at Ann Arbor SPARK.

“In this section, we try to pinpoint some of the racial differences in three of the metrics – poverty rate, housing affordability, and unemployment – and let the data speak for itself.”

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