The US tech economy is starting to spread from major cities on the East and West Coasts to inland metro areas. This is great news for American cities, employers, and tech workers. Inland urban centers that were once considered flyover cities are now bustling with tech startups and incubators, as well as the tech workforces of enterprises that chose to escape the high operating costs of traditional tech hubs such as the Bay Area and New York City. Today, businesses have considerable choice when deciding where to open a new office, headquarter a tech team, or concentrate recruitment efforts.

But while the regional US tech talent landscape is ripe with opportunity, firms must carefully evaluate the pros and cons of each location with respect to their talent and ecosystem needs. This evaluation begins with tech leaders identifying locations that offer a tech workforce with the size, skills, and experience to support their operating model for the foreseeable future. Firms must then assess the tech ecosystem that exists in each location by looking for the presence of a dynamic start-up community, thriving colleges, active local business associations, and other entities that will inspire and support innovation. Lastly, firms must reconcile these advantages against the cost of living and operating in each market, determining the locations that will enable them to provide prospective tech workers with attractive workspaces, competitive salaries, and affordable housing.

In our new report, “2018 US Tech Talent Hotspots,” Forrester performed such an analysis on all major US cities and identified 15 tech talent hotspots, each of which offers a unique value proposition to businesses. Here are our recommendations:

  • Elite talent markets exist for businesses willing to pay top dollar for top talent. (1) The Bay Area, (2) New York City, (3) Washington, D.C., (4) Seattle, and (5) Atlanta offer the largest quantity of elite tech talent for businesses that care more about access to niche skills than operating costs. These cities are particularly strong choices for tech vendors, as shown by Amazon’s decision to set up major offices in the New York and Washington areas.
  • Value talent markets offer quality talent at affordable costs. (1) Chicago, (2) Minneapolis, (3) Phoenix, (4) Miami, and (5) Pittsburgh offer the most bang for buck when we compared the quality and quantity of available tech workers to operating costs. These cities offer exceptional value to end-user firms looking for talent to lead their business technology efforts.
  • High-growth talent markets can get you in on the ground floor. (1) Charlotte, N.C., (2) Portland, Ore., (3) Indianapolis, (4) Oklahoma City, and (5) Jacksonville, Fla. are promising tech hubs seeing exceptional growth. These cities offer businesses an opportunity to grow alongside their burgeoning tech scenes. Startups and venturesome enterprises should check out what they have to offer.

There are a lot of excellent tech cities — including Boston, right across the river from Forrester headquarters in Cambridge, Mass. — that didn’t make it on this list as they did not rank in the top five based on the criteria we established for our three markets. Our recommendations can help talent-hungry CIOs find the best locations for tech talent, but the “best” tech hub for any company is the one that best fits its specific needs.