Attracting and Retaining Tech Talent in Buffalo Niagara

Last year, Buffalo did not make it into the CBRE’s top 50 cities for technology talent. While not in the top 50, Buffalo did make it in to CBRE’s The Next 25 Markets in the tech talent report. Tech talent has long been concentrated in major cities, but high operating costs and shrinking availability of tech talent has spurred a spillover of hiring momentum in smaller and upstart markets in the U.S..

Tech talent is a key driver of the wealth and competitiveness of cities and is a good proxy for predicting the prosperity over the coming decades. It is defined as highly skilled technical workers who create and enable the software and devices that are integrated into nearly everything we do. As our economy continues to increase its dependency on technology, ensuring our region is flush with the technical skills needed to perform these jobs is imperative to remaining updated and efficient.

Back in February, CBRE’s Senior Economist, Spencer Levy, stated that it is a must that Buffalo break into the “top 50” tech talent markets to attract the investment that the city needs. It has been said “Buffalo is in a fight for its life,” and that the “race to relevancy” is on.

Buffalo Niagara has been on a legitimate upswing, dusting ourselves off after years of disinvestment and brain-drain. However, just as we are starting to get things right, the goal post has shifted. Our region must now adapt and become much more competitive in attracting tech-focused talent. That’s why the announcement of M&T Bank’s tech-hub in downtown Buffalo and hiring over 1,000 new technologists could not have come at a better time. This private sector investment is a step in the right direction. The downtown tech-hub proves that our community can rise to the challenge and attract tech talent into the region.

This talent attraction effort demands both physical and perspective changes. Creating additional housing, offices, amenities, and retail space downtown is critical to revitalizing downtown – the key to attracting and retaining top talent. Inwardly facing, we must also start to view technological skills as more than a four-year college degree. Tech studies should be incorporated into primary school curriculum and treated as a professional trade. Shifting to this perspective will give us home-grown tech talent and provide opportunities for more people to meaningfully participate in our economic resurgence.

The first step to inciting this shift is to repair our downtown urban fabric. The Partnership’s upcoming infill report aims to start a robust conversation on how to accomplish this in order to bring vibrancy back to downtown.  Moving forward, our community must rally to build, support, and nurture an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurialism. This requires an all-hands approach, with diverse stakeholder participation to make it work. This is Buffalo’s chance — let’s take it.