Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Popular Science ranks Houston a top 10 tech metro

Houston Business Journal article. The good news is we beat Austin. The bad news is we were beat by Columbus, OH?! These things are so arbitrary, both in the choice of individual scoring categories and in the way they weight those scores to come out with an overall composite score. And they have my biggest survey pet peeve: measuring job opportunities (in this case tech) on a per capita basis instead of in total. If you want a tech job, do you want to move to a city with shear numbers, or just high per capita? Shear numbers means more opportunities for you individually - both to start and as you move up your career ladder. High per capita could mean a three-man town where two of them are professional spammers. If you wanted to build a long-term career in energy, would you move to bigger Houston or more-focused Midland-Odessa? I think the answer is obvious.

To show the absurdity of per capita numbers: if we carved off a new municipality narrowly drawn to include HP/Compaq, BMC, NASA, and parts of the med center, called it "Silicon Houston", and submitted it to the rankings, it would shoot to the top of their list. You'd want to move there and build a career, right? But as soon as we fold it back into our broader metro area, it stops being attractive? How much sense does that make?

And the final kicker: if Mayor White somehow shut down the Port of Houston and kicked out all the associated companies, jobs, and people, that would actually improve our score (by improving the ratio of tech to non-tech jobs) even though it would be an economic disaster for the region. Good rule of thumb for ranking measures: if you could actually improve your score by doing something incredibly stupid, it's probably not a great metric.

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