Technology industries down, but better than national average | NevadaAppeal.com

Technology industries down, but better than national average

by Sally J. Taylor

Nevada’s high-tech sector fared better last year than in other states, but still took a dip downward.

According to the American Electronics Association, Nevada showed a drop of 2.3 percent of its technology workforce from 2000 to 2001, which translates into a loss of 449 jobs statewide.

The association’s report, “Cyberstates 2002: A State-by-State Overview of the High-Technology Industry,” places Nevada among 20 states that lost high-tech jobs in 2001. The biggest high-tech job losers were Texas, Minnesota, South Dakota, Indiana and Utah.

“We are not happy to see any jobs lost,” said Michael Thomas, executive director of the TechAlliance in Reno. “Still, we have to consider the dramatic losses that other states experienced. Overall, I think this report shows we have a stable technology sector that has withstood incredible economic pressure.”

The high-tech industry in the United States as a whole experienced its smallest employment increase in six years, up only 1 percent in 2001 compared to a 9-percent jump in 2000.

Nevada’s big western neighbor, California, added 12,400 jobs in 2001. The 1.3 percent increase was down sharply from the 13 percent growth in 2000 when the industry added 113,000 jobs.

Nevada’s high-tech companies enjoyed some increases. Payroll topped more than $1 billion for the first time and the average annual wage in the industry passed more than $50,000 — significantly higher than the average private sector wage of $31,387 in the state.

The industry slow down comes after five years of dramatic growth. The number of high-tech firms in Nevada nearly doubled from 763 in 1995 to 1,468 in 2000.

“We think a lot of the growth is fueled by growth in the northern part of the state, partly due to its close proximity to Silicon Valley,” Thomas said. “We’ve attracted Intuit, Microsoft, and Cisco (to move to Nevada) and seen growth in companies like IGT, Cubix and many smaller to mid-sized manufacturing companies in Carson, Douglas and Reno.”

The American Electronics Association classifies Nevada as a “leapfrog” state because of its rapid growth. It is now ranked 39th, up from 42nd in 1995.

Thomas expects the downturn of 2001 to turn around, based on the amount of activity from high-tech businesses inquiring into the region and about expansion possibilities.

Northern Nevada may not return to the rapid pace of the preceding years, he said, but should at least settle into “realistic growth” in 2002.

The “Cyberstates” report focuses on employment, wages, payroll, establishments and exports in high-tech industries. It strictly defines the high-tech industry as limited to high-tech manufacturing, communication services, software and computer-related industries. It does not include biotechnology, or research and testing. The complete report can be found on the Internet at http://www.aeanet.org.

Other details in the report about the Nevada high-technology industry include:

— High-tech products make up 34 percent of Nevada’s total exports with a value of $456 million.

— Nevada had the fourth fastest growth of high-tech exports between 1997 and 2001. During that period, exports increased 153 percent to a total of $486 million.

— High-tech exports dropped 30 percent in Nevada in 2001 to $486 million from a high in 2000 of $697 million.

— Nevada was 10th in the nation for the percentage increase in the number of high-tech jobs at 57.6 percent growth between 1995 and 2001.

— Nevada ranked 20th in the United States with 58.4 percent of all homes with a computer and 52.8 percent had Internet access. The national average of households with a computer was 56.5 percent and 50.6 percent had Internet access.