As a Tech Hot Spot, Pricey Silicon Valley Still Envied

Susan Hall
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2011 Salary Negotiation Tactics

Experts offer key pointers on approaching the subject of salary as the economy evolves in 2011.

When we moved from Dallas to Seattle in the early '90s, the difference in home prices took our breath away. And home prices in Seattle are easily double that now.

 

The cost of living was the thing that most struck me about this graphic on Silicon Valley tech salaries posted at Scribbal. Though the salaries sound astronomical to those of us living elsewhere, the cost-of-living comparison will certainly bring you down to earth. It says Silicon Valley home prices are 191 percent higher than the national average and apartment rents are 76 percent higher. Just to put some numbers on that, I looked at median home prices last year reported by the National Association of Realtors and came up with this:

 

  • Silicon Valley-Actual average tech salary $99,299, median home price (San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara) $602,400.
  • San Diego-Cost-of-living equivalent $59,514, actual median 2010 home price $385,200.
  • Dallas-Equivalent salary $43,459, home price $143,800.
  • Knoxville, Tenn.-Equivalent salary $38,007, home price $140,900.
  • Philadelphia-Equivalent salary $46,912, home price $214,900.
  • New York-Equivalent salary $74,808, home price $393,700.

 

A variety of sources were used to make the graphic. Dice.com's figures were slightly different with the average tech salary of $99,028 last year in Silicon Valley, compared with a national average of $79,384. The cost-of-living difference would seem to be a great recruiting tool for employers in other cities. But as the pulse of the tech industry, Silicon Valley prices reflect demand - and hiring is expected to remain hot there. In the first quarter of this year, according to the graphic, venture capitalists invested $7.5 billion there, and it says there are 48,000 open positions there at Internet companies.


 

Its success is often imitated, but not duplicated. In an article at The Washington Post, entrepreneur/scholar Vivek Wadhwa explains why New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to rival Silicon Valley won't duplicate its success. Bloomberg's offering incentives for universities or consortia to create an innovation hub, not really a new idea.

 

But Wadhwa explains that just having world-class universities churning out talent and potential entrepreneurs isn't the answer. If that were true, Massachusetts' employers wouldn't be so concerned about a talent shortage. As this Boston Globe article points out, nearly half the estimated 250,000 students who attend the state's private colleges and universities each year leave the state after graduation. And Dice.com listed the state as No. 5 on its breakdown of states with the worst talent shortages.

 

The $100 million Bloomberg proposes as incentives, Wadhwa says, would be better used to seed startups or educate the underprivileged to become entrepreneurs. He applauds Bloomberg's call to open the door to skilled immigrants, but the state also needs to figure out how to keep its brightest minds graduating from its own world-class universities. Research from state-funded universities should be free for any startup that locates and remains in the state.

 

The most important thing, however, is creating the types of social networks that define Silicon Valley, he says. I've written about efforts such as Alley to the Valley, in which Silicon Valley women entrepreneurs support their East Coast counterparts.



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