While Chicago is not yet one of the nation's largest tech hubs, but new data shows that the city is gaining momentum in the amount of tech talent that is available.  

Commercial real estate and investment firm CBRE ranks Chicago No. 3 on its list of tech talent momentum markets, which measures the growth acceleration of tech labor pools across 50 U.S. and Canadian markets.

The data shows that Chicago’s tech labor force grew 8 percentage points faster in the last two years (2017 and 2018) than the previous two-year period (2015 and 2016). Since 2013, Chicago’s tech talent pool has grown 10.5 percent, or by about 166,620 workers, making it the sixth-largest tech market in the country.

Chicago was beat by Orlando, which came in at No. 1 for growing its tech workforce by 14.1 percentage points. San Diego, came in at No. 2 for growing its tech labor pool by 10.2 points. Among the top 10, Chicago was followed by Cleveland, Long Island, N.Y., Denver, Portland, Los Angeles, Detroit and Hartford, Conn.

Contributing to the growing talent pool is the increasing number of tech degrees that Chicagoans are receiving. Tech degree completions in Chicago have grown by 36.9 percent from 2012 to 2017 with more than 7,300 tech degrees being completed in 2017, according to CBRE’s data.

Chicago is one of the top cities for attracting talent from the Big 10 university system, which includes some of the nation’s top computer science and engineering schools.

“Chicago’s tech market has seen a lot of organic growth and a tremendous amount of growth from coastal companies expanding here, particularly firms from California,” said Brad Serot, vice chairman of CBRE, in a statement.


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Several West Coast tech companies have recently announced plans to expand in Chicago. Glassdoor is planning to expand its Chicago footprint with plans to hire up to 500 people in the “next several years.” Additionally, both Facebook and Google are growing fast in Chicago, and Salesforce is planning to add 1,000 new jobs in Chicago over the next five years and move into a new 57-story tower on the riverfront.

One reason tech companies are choosing Chicago for new outposts is because of the city’s affordability. CBRE data shows that the annual cost for a 500-employee, 75,000-square-foot office in Chicago is approximately $40 million, which is much cheaper than other popular tech markets. A comparable figure for San Francisco would be $59 million, $55 million in New York and $51 million in Washington, D.C., according to CBRE.

Besides tech companies, Chicago is also attracting individual tech workers from around the country and particularly from the Bay Area. In a separate surveypublished earlier this month by investment management firm Wealthfront, a significant amount of Bay Area workers reported contemplating a move.

The firm polled around 2,700 of its clients — who all work at Bay Area tech companies — during the first five months of this year and found that nearly a quarter believe they’ll leave for cheaper cities, including Chicago, Seattle, New York, L.A. and Austin.

One such example is BlueCrew, a San Francisco-based on-demand staffing startup that relocated its headquarters to Chicago earlier this year. And fintech company Tegus, which relocated its headquarters from San Francisco to Chicago in March.