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Technopolis Found: Top Tech Cities

Feb. 1, 2005
Popular Science
By Matthew Power
What makes a place high-tech? When Popular Science set out to determine America’s top cities for technology, that was naturally the first question we had to answer. We surveyed experts—academics, scientists, government officials, think-tank intelligentsia, market researchers—to determine the key indicators of a tech-embracing metropolis. We polled our own staff, pondering what we value most about the ways in which technology and innovation affect our daily lives. Then we gathered information from such sources as the Census Bureau, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Transportation, private foundations and medical institutes, collecting thousands of data points in six broad categories.

In our first category, we looked at the way city residents experience technology, considering such markers as use of cellphones, HDTVs, computers and satellite cable. We called this category “connected citizenry” and weighted it as the single most important one. We also considered transportation innovation (including the efficient use of mass transit and the prevalence of alternative fueling stations); the number of high-tech job opportunities per capita; and the use of technology in education (including R&D spending by local universities and the number of students using computers in school). We looked at the smart use of energy and, finally, at hospitals and in emergency response, including the number of clinical trials and the use of GPS by emergency-medical personnel. Then we crunched the numbers.

The results were at times obvious (Boston ranked highest in education), at times surprising (San Diego was the medical champ). But all the cities that rose to the top of our list share a broad-based embrace of technology. The winner: unassuming yet consistently innovative Minneapolis.

To determine which U.S. cities can claim the designation “high-tech,” we chose 36 technology indicators—our raw data—based on expert and staff opinion. Items such as “robotic surgery,” “number of Wi-Fi hotspots” and “R&D budgets at local universities” all qualified. We grouped each indicator into one of six broad categories: Transportation, Connected Citizens, Medical, Jobs, Education and Energy.

When analyzing all of that raw data, we weighted each of the indicators based on their relative level of importance. We summed those weighted indicators in each category to get the Category Score, 1 through 100. To reach an overall High-Tech Score for each city, we weighted each of the individual Category Scores, added them together, and converted those results to a 1–100 scale.

RANK CITY
1 Minneapolis/St. Paul MN
2 Atlanta GA
3 Washington DC
4 Boston/Cambridge MA
5 San Diego CA
6 Chicago IL
7 Columbus OH
8 Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill NC
9 Seattle/Bellevue/Everett WA
10 Houston TX
11 San Francisco CA
12 Burlington VT
13 Albuquerque NM
14 Denver CO
15 Philadelphia PA
16 Sacramento CA
17 San Jose CA
18 Oakland CA
19 Rochester NY
20 Providence RI
21 Santa Barbara CA
22 Kansas City KS/MO
23 Salt Lake City UT
24 Boulder CO
25 Portland OR
26 Tucson AZ
27 Dallas/Ft. Worth TX
28 Louisville KY
29 Los Angeles CA
30 Gainesville FL
31 Milwaukee WI
32 Ann Arbor MI
33 San Antonio TX
34 Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater FL
35 St. Louis MO
36 Baltimore MD
37 Phoenix AZ
38 Cincinnati OH
39 New York NY
40 Charleston SC
41 Albany NY
42 Madison WI
43 Jacksonville FL
44 Spokane WA
45 Omaha NE
46 Indianapolis IN
47 Honolulu HI
48 Huntsville AL
49 Newark NJ
50 Orlando FL
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