Two very different top 10 lists published in the last week are seemingly unrelated, but both tell basically the same story. The lists came from respected research institutions and, while they weren’t on the same topic, the underlying message was consistent and striking — but perhaps not surprising. Knowledge-based, scientifically related jobs are becoming ever more important as the generator of employment and income, and those jobs are closely tied to investment in higher education — especially research.
The first list was from a report issued by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. That study listed the top 10 cities in the U.S. for growth in innovation industries such as software, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors and data processing. These jobs account for a growing share of the nation’s economy and are closely linked to research funding and an educated workforce. With one exception, all the cities on the list were part of large metropolitan areas (populations over 1 million) and were, for the most part, on the coasts. Yet there was one city included on the list that didn’t fit that pattern. Madison was ranked seventh of all American cities for gains in innovation jobs. Madison was the only smaller metropolitan area and the only one located in the nation’s heartland. The report points out that these innovation industries, with their generally well-paying jobs, usually locate in cities with a good supply of highly educated workers and research institutions.