Los Angeles, Orange County region sees biggest tech-talent gain in North America


The greater Los Angeles/Orange County region climbed eight spots to land at ninth overall in CBRE’s 2021 Scoring Tech Talent report.

It posted the biggest jump of any market in North America, emerging as the fifth largest tech-talent labor pool in the U.S. with an 18.6% increase from 2015 to 2020.

The region’s power to attract and nurture top technology companies is evidenced by the players that are here. General Motors announced it will be bringing its Advanced Design Center to Pasadena, and Irvine-based Rivian Automotive, the largest developer in the U.S. for electric trucks, is expanding its operations.

Beyond that, Southern California is home to a slew of tech startups.

CBRE’s annual report ranks the top 50 North American markets by analyzing 13 measures of their ability to attract and develop tech talent. That includes factors such as tech graduation rates, tech-job concentration, tech labor pool size and labor and real estate costs.

Job gains, despite a ‘brain drain’

The greater Los Angeles/Orange County region added nearly 36,000 tech jobs between 2015 and 2020, despite a “brain drain” of 25,391 recent tech graduates who found work elsewhere.

The greater Los Angeles/Orange County area produced 61,261 tech graduates, but only 35,870 new tech jobs between 2015 and 2020, the report said.

The region’s overall tech-talent ranking landed ahead of Ottawa, Denver, Dallas/Fort Worth, Baltimore, Montreal and Phoenix but trailed behind the San Francisco/Bay Area which topped the list, followed by Seattle, Washington, D.C., Toronto, New York, Boston, Austin and Atlanta.

Blake Mirkin, CBRE’s executive vice president, said the region saw a 31% increase in in-migration from the Bay Area.

“While not all of this influx is tech-related and some of it might be temporary displacement due to the pandemic, it pretty clearly demonstrates that this region is establishing itself as a complementary hub to those up north,” Mirkin said in a statement.

‘Tech talent defined’

“Tech talent” is defined as 20 key tech professions under the broad headings of software developers and systems and data managers, across all industries. That would take in such jobs as a data analyst, cybersecurity specialist and computer technician, among other positions.

Wages for most of the jobs are good. The average software-developer wage in LA-OC in 2020, for example, was $113,528, the seventh highest in the country.

Matt Gardner, president of the California Technology Council, said Southern California’s tech expansion has been fueled primarily by a growing need for intellectual property rights protection and a steady influx of venture capital.

He also cited the region’s network of research institutions, including USC, Caltech, UCLA and UC Irvine. Some of those schools, he said, have research budgets of more than $1 billion.

“There is no place on earth that would have more advantages for mobility technologies than Southern California,” he said “A big part of it is software development for things like driverless vehicles and next-generation navigation systems.”

Tech players both big and small

General Motors recently announced it will be bringing its Advanced Design Center to Pasadena. The company indicated it wants to be closer to technology hubs, leading universities and design schools while creating jobs and increasing its own capacity.

The nearly 150,000-square-foot campus will occupy 8 acres in the eastern part of Pasadena, where GM’s technology teams will research and develop key technologies with a goal of increasing safety and reducing emissions and congestion, company officials said.

Tesla recently moved into a newly completed 322,000-square-foot industrial development in San Bernardino. The facility will serve as the automaker’s West Coast distribution hub for auto parts, power walls, solar panels and other items. It will employ hundreds of workers.

Other companies that are making substantial tech inroads in Orange County include Amazon-backed Rivian, the largest developer in the U.S. for electric trucks, and Palmer Luckey, a young entrepreneur who developed and sold his virtual reality headset Oculus to Facebook. He’s building out a drone-based defense contractor company called Anduril Industries in Costa Mesa.

Both of those businesses will likely draw hundreds if not thousands of tech jobs to the county.

Scores of other technology firms, big and small, are scattered throughout Southern California, including many startups. They include MobilityWare, an Irvine-based gaming company, FabFitFun, an online L.A.-based retailer of beauty, fashion and fitness products, and LiveControl, a Santa Monica business that does remote video-production.