Type the phrase “innovation lives here” into a search engine and you’ll find a diverse assortment of companies and organizations, including the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corp., using it as a tagline. But does innovation have a big, opulent home in the Tampa Bay region?
New data from consumer and business research firm Smartest Dollar indicates that the Tampa Bay region might not be as innovative as we like to think. Examining criteria such as annual wages and the percentage of workers in innovative jobs, the company found that the Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater metro ranked below the national average in terms of how innovative its workforce is.
The region has 34,590 workers in the most innovative jobs — just 2.7% of the total workforce. In contrast, the national average is 4,428,790, or 3.1% of the U.S. workforce.
Likewise, the average annual salary for innovative jobs in Tampa Bay is $71,139. That's well below the national average of $86,562.
The team at Smartest Dollar says innovative jobs are typically found in arts, education and entertainment, as well as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Using criteria established by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it defines innovative jobs as those that require creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
One of the study’s key findings relates to the geographical diversity of innovative jobs — they aren’t clustered in one region, such as the Northeast, as you might expect. For example, No. 1 on the list is Austin-Round Rock, Texas, followed by the Boston-Cambridge-Nashua region in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and, in third position, Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan. Rochester, New York, and Cleveland-Elyria round out the top five. Not a single large Florida metro area appears in the top 15; in fact, Austin-Round Rock is the only large southern metro area represented.
Florida fares better in Smartest Dollar's rankings of midsize metro areas with the most innovative workforces, with Tallahassee at No. 2 and Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville No. 14.