Columbus is appearing on lists of the nation's top cities for tech jobs.

Columbus has ranked No. 1 on CBRE Research's third annual ranking of top tech talent in small markets and No. 5 on SmartAsset's list of Top 10 Cities for Tech Workers.

Then look at it in terms of where information technology has opportunity for immediate application in a wide variety of local and global industries, and the Columbus Region offers distinct advantages that can't be matched even in Silicon Valley, industry observers contend.

“When we talk to tech companies out west or some of the other hubs around the US or even abroad, if they're in a market that's heavily associated around tech, like the Silicon Valley area in particular, then they really don't have a local testing ground and customer face for the technology,” says Jung Kim, managing director, research and business intelligence for Columbus 2020.

Having an auto company lab nearby is “still not the same as being here and you have the mothership of Honda for North America and Transportation Research Center and some of these other functions that could really apply what a tech company is doing on the ground,” Kim notes.

Having that demand side available locally is a strength that the Columbus Region boasts in spades with its rich concentration of industry giants such as Alliance Data card services business, Battelle, Cardinal Health, JP Morgan Chase, L Brands, Nationwide Insurance, OCLC and others in addition to the automotive verticals.

Columbus 2020 has mapped the robust IT ecosystem in the Columbus Region to help tell the story of just how substantial the tech workforce and infrastructure is in the 11-county area.

“We knew about the financial sector for a while and how important that was in the tech world. Some of the other categories, like education and publishing, that might have been a bit of a surprise to realize between what we have with OSU, OCLC, McGraw Hill and Highlights for Children, there is something here happening with digital publishing. There may be elements of this that maybe people knew about in bits and pieces but to have it all together in one graphic really highlights the fact that there is a concentration of companies, activity and talent,” Kim says.

Further supporting the IT ecosystem is strong local investment in fiber infrastructure, including Columbus FiberNet, several suburban networks and OARnet, part of the Ohio Department of Higher Education's Ohio Technology Consortium.

Plentiful sources of venture capital and angel funds for IT enterprises are also a critical component, including NCT Ventures and Ohio TechAngels Fund.

Cross-industry collaboration is another Columbus Region strength that powers the technology ecosystem.

“In other parts of the country, you do see things happening around healthcare technology or fintech involving various companies, but to see companies like AEP and L Brands and Cardinal Health coming from very different directions and realizing that they have common issues, in terms of things like analytics and cybersecurity, and then to create (the Columbus) Collaboratory to help deal with the issues, that appears pretty unique to me. I haven't heard of other examples quite like that,” Kim says.

The relatively smaller size of the Columbus Region is an advantage, says Columbus 2020 President and CEO Kenny McDonald.

“The fact that this cluster is a little tighter knit because the population is not that of Los Angeles, you're going to meet and run into people a lot more. You're going to have opportunities to serve on boards together, so some of the leaders get to know each other a little bit better,” McDonald says.

“Business relationships are enhanced and accelerated by all that. Anytime one of these intense clusters is in a smaller place, you see it grow and become even tighter and become even stronger over time because of that size, not the lack thereof.”

McDonald adds the Region is “full of interesting people doing very, very interesting work and that alone attracts others, both talented people and the companies they work for.”

The Columbus Region's growing IT ecosystem is important because it shows “you have these world class players that are investing and creating jobs here, and it provides great testimony for a lot of other things that we try to recruit or keep in the area. We want to continue to see it grow but we also know that it has value well beyond the boundaries of IT and other industry verticals,” McDonald says.

“It's good evidence the area can support nearly anything.” McDonald adds.

Even with all its strengths, the IT ecosystem of the Columbus Region still needs constant attention to keep growing.

“We can't work hard enough on the issue of talent and workforce,” McDonald says. “We couldn't possibility do enough to help our existing companies as well as to attract new companies to the market and to fuel their needs with the people they need. It's a national, and to some degree, an international issue.”

Columbus Region Ranks Well for Tech Work

The Columbus Region compares well for tech jobs and opportunities with the rest of the nation. Here are a few of the high marks the area can boast.

Columbus ranked No. 1 for best American cities to work in tech in 2017, according to SmartAsset in August. The website also says Columbus is “one of the best cities for new college grads.”

Also in August, global commercial real estate and investment firm CBRE placed Columbus at No. 7 for top markets for change in momentum of tech talent labor pools, with a 11.9 percent change in momentum. In 2016, CBRE ranked Columbus No. 1 for top tech talent in small markets.

Young IT professionals will find Columbus No. 8 on the 2017 list of best cities for them, according to Verizon's website Right Click in May.

Job-search site ZipRecruiter in June found 83 percent year-over-year growth in tech jobs in Columbus, ranking it No. 14 for fastest growing tech towns.

The Center for Digital Government praised Ohio as one of just five states to earn the top A grade in its 2016 Digital States Survey. Ohio was also second for transportation and fourth for adaptive leadership.

Thomson Reuters' CIO placed Columbus No. 10 on its 2016 list of Top 10 metro areas for STEM jobs, noting Kauffman Index research predicted 274,000 Ohio STEM jobs by 2018.

Intelligent Community Forum ranked Columbus as its 2015 Intelligent Community of the Year, following three years of reaching being in the top seven.

Also for 2015, Columbus was ranked No. 5 for “real” programmer analyst pay and No. 8 for “real” systems administrator pay by salary watchdog Glassdoor, which compared cities with the highest tech salaries when adjusted for cost-of-living.