Denver’s tech talent workforce grows, climbing into North

Denver’s tech talent workforce grew by 23% from 2016 to 2021, making it the 10th best market for tech talent in all of North America, according to rankings commercial real estate company CBRE’s 2022 Scoring Tech Talent report.

The report, released Tuesday, showed Denver climbed two spots from No. 12 in the 2021 report.

In terms of total tech worker growth, Denver has the 12th largest tech talent workforce in North America with 117,620 workers.

“This is huge news,” Ryan Link, senior vice president of CBRE’s Denver Tech and Media Practice, said during a call with reporters on Tuesday. “We’ve worked hard as a market in general to continue to push towards what we like to call a tier one labor market.”

Tech talent jobs include software developers and programmers, computer support, database and systems, computer and information systems managers, and technology engineering-related and “back office” workers like sales, administration, finance and marketing. The average wage of tech talent jobs is $101,593, according to the report.

Link attributed growth to the in-migration of both tech companies and tech workers, especially software developers. Many of those workers have come from San Francisco, New York and Chicago. And many are millennials.

“Denver’s population of millennials increased by 14.1% from 2015 to 2020, the seventh-largest gain among large markets in that span,” according to a news release. “And it is the third-most concentrated market for millennials at 24.1% of its population.”

“One of the most coveted, if not the most coveted skill set among tech workers, is software engineers,” Link said. “Historically, we’ve seen Denver as more of a ‘back office’ with sales, marketing and administration sort of workers. But as our ecosystem continues to grow, both organically and with in-migration, we’re starting to see a lot more of that specialized tech worker, which in my opinion helped push us into that top 10.”

Other tidbits from the report:

  • Denver has the sixth highest ratio (46.5%) of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The U.S. average is 32.9%.
  • The Mile High City created nearly as many tech jobs (21,810 from 2017 to 2021) as tech graduates (22,581 from 2016 to 2020).
  • Denver has relatively affordable real estate costs for a leading tech hub. Its average annual office asking rent is 16th most expensive. Its average monthly apartment rent is 11th most expensive and its ratio of tech salary to apartment rent of 20.9% is 12th highest.
  • Colorado Springs ranked No. 3 among emerging markets for tech talent.

“Although our rents continue to climb, and we have a housing market that is anything but easy to get into, we are still seeing favorability from coastal cities like San Francisco, New York and Boston. That, in my opinion, afforded us the opportunity to capitalize and grow our tech system by adding companies,” Link said.

He also noted Denver’s growth in venture capital funding, which set a record of “almost $6 billion in 2021.” That more than doubled the $2.7 billion in VC funding in 2020.

“Venture capital firms working with local Denver startups was in the single digits 10 to 15 years ago,” Link said. “We now have well over 20 VCs working within the Denver ecosystem focusing on Denver startups, which is really encouraging to see.”