In late September, Software.org: the BSA Foundation released a study that quantified the economic impact of software throughout the United States. The report tracked state-by-state changes in growth, jobs, and GDP. The good news is that the study finds software is helping grow the economy of every single state, but the surging numbers in some surprising states encouraged us to dig deeper into why these areas, not widely associated with the software industry, were outpacing the rest.
Prompted by those results, we set out to learn what was causing this growth in Michigan, Indiana, and other states from the leaders of these local transformations. In partnership with RealClearPolitics, Software.org brought together local business and community leaders and key policymakers for events to discuss the impact of software in each state. What we found were virtuous cycles of community support and an understanding that workforce development and technology education and training are essential to promoting local jobs and a local software industry.
In Indianapolis, Gov. Eric Holcomb discussed his plans to help Indiana meet current workforce demand. Perhaps most interesting was the state’s support for re-skilling and re-training. As the governor puts it: “If people are willing to put in the time to go get those skills, the state of Indiana will pay for it.” Holcomb’s Next Level Jobs initiative is developing Indiana’s workforce with an emphasis on technology skills.
The event also included a panel with representatives from Salesforce, Ivy Tech Community College, the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, and TechPoint. From the panelists, we learned that an already-thriving entrepreneurial environment led to the creation of a cloud marketing platform that was later purchased by Salesforce. But the company has made Indianapolis its largest hub outside of California because of the city’s booming economy, affordable living, business-friendly environment, and talent.
In Detroit, the Motor-City-turned-Comeback City showed how it got its new nickname. Sandy Baruah from the Detroit Regional Chamber kicked off the event, discussing the region’s competitive advantage with the autonomous vehicle industry. Gov. Rick Snyder highlighted the importance of building the state’s tech talent pipeline and emphasized that accelerating the growth of tech jobs also depends on rural broadband deployment.
A panel of speakers from IBM, TechTown Detroit, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the University of Michigan discussed how the state has leveraged its history as a hub for the automotive industry and embraced new-age technologies for the future of mobility. The group discussed how important it is for Michigan to meet its talented engineering workforce with opportunities to help boost software innovation and creation locally. As these changes progress, community leaders and policymakers are pushing not only to educate a new generation of tech talent but to retain it in the state.
The main takeaway from our first state events is that savvy officials are beginning to understand the ubiquity and permeation of software across industries. This sort of dynamic has been listed as a key recommendation for developing a workforce that meets the needs of high-demand industries. The software industry does not stand alone. In fact, among software’s strengths is how it is enables and expands everything from the automotive and manufacturing sectors to agriculture and aerospace.
The findings of a recent Brookings analysis further amplify the argument that development of workforce in tech and related areas will remain essential in the digital economy. The study states that the highest demand of digital skills is occurring in mid-to-lower skill occupations.
In 2018, we will continue to look for lessons on how all states can see a surge in software-driven growth.