Report finds state’s “quality of life” is key IT industry driver

The UMass Donahue Institute released a comprehensive report yesterday profiling the state’s IT industry. Gov. Deval Patrick gathered with Massachusetts IT leaders for a presentation by the study’s lead author, Dr. Michael Goodman, and a full webcast of the event is available online.

The report shows that the state’s IT industry is a major economic engine, with $65 billion in direct spending. While the industry includes just 5.5 percent of Massachusetts workers, it generates a hefty 18 percent of state GDP.

The sector — which was hit hard by the dot-com bubble — is still down by more than 25 percent from its peak of 240,048 jobs in 2000. But figures through 2008 show the industry steadily adding positions since 2004, and early signs suggest IT has been relatively resilient over the course of this difficult recession.

While the report suggests Massachusetts trails behind California, our major IT competitor, the Commonwealth posts fairly close results on most indicators. Responses from surveys of Massachusetts IT firms provide a particularly textured view of this East-West rivalry. According to the data, 53.4 percent of the firms included California as one of the world’s best regions for innovation and growth; 51.5 percent had Massachusetts on their lists.

Among those who found the Commonwealth an ideal business location, 70 percent identified “Quality of life: Access to cultural amenities” as an important regional strength. Surprisingly, other highly regarded attributes, such as “Climate for Innovation: Access to world class research partners” (64 percent) and “Workforce: Availability of skilled workers” (48 percent), received fewer nominations.

Meet the Author

Ben Forman

Research Director, MassINC

About Ben Forman

Benjamin Forman is MassINC’s research director. He coordinates the development of the organization’s research agenda and oversees production of research reports. Ben has authored a number of MassINC publications and he speaks frequently to organizations and media across Massachusetts.

About Ben Forman

Benjamin Forman is MassINC’s research director. He coordinates the development of the organization’s research agenda and oversees production of research reports. Ben has authored a number of MassINC publications and he speaks frequently to organizations and media across Massachusetts.

The prioritization of quality of life, a fairly vague concept, suggests there is much more we need to learn. What makes Massachusetts attractive to both employers and workers from a quality of life persective? How do we build it? What factors erode it? These are all critical to state competitiveness strategies.

As Colin Angle, co-founder and chair of the company I-Robot asked during the forum’s panel session, “How cool is it to live in Massachusetts? How are we going to attract people here from California, or Wyoming, or Lithuania to bring their cool ideas?”