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Tech sector here ranks 2nd in employment, 4th in pay

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By Steven Overly
Monday, December 13, 2010

Well, Washington, there are a lot of well-paid techies in our midst.

The region ranks second in the nation for high-tech employment with almost 293,000 workers in fields such as computer systems design, telecommunications and engineering services. Greater New York topped the list.

The foundation arm of TechAmerica, the tech sector's largest trade group, published the "Cybercities" report using data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The findings are based on 2009 figures, the latest information available for metropolitan areas.

The weak economy led to net job losses in all but seven of the top 60 cities, the report says. The D.C. area fared better than most, though, posting a 0.6 percent loss, or about 1,700 jobs, compared to the year before.

"We've seen tech was really the last to enter the recession as far as shedding jobs," said Josh James, vice president of research and industry analysis at TechAmerica Foundation. "It seems to be out of it now. We did a mid-year analysis [for 2010] and the industry added 30,000 jobs."

High-tech workers here are also among the highest compensated, according to the report, raking in an average salary of $100,500, fourth best nationally. San Jose/Silicon Valley, populated by Internet companies such as Facebook and Google, beat out other areas with an average salary of $132,100.

James said the data exclude federal and other public sector employees, but many of the area's techies work for private enterprises that make at least part of their revenue from selling to the government.

"It's certainly the biggest strength that the area has because the tech industry grew up around here supporting the federal government and still does," he said. "But what's been spawned out of that is a strong business-to-business and business-to-consumer sector as well."


Sprint will phase out the Nextel network it acquired in 2005 as the mobile carrier looks to modernize its infrastructure and appease customers who now crave data-intensive services, such as video, gaming and social networking.

Executives said the company's local workforce, which includes about 1,800 in Northern Virginia, will not be affected by the change. Instead, those employees will provide support, research and development and other services for the company's forthcoming infrastructure, which will be introduced over several years.

Iyad Tarazi joined Sprint through its acquisition of Nextel and now serves as vice president for network development and engineering. He said the company's network-in-development will be able to support all Sprint subscribers and expand high-speed mobile broadband, known as 4G.

Nextel was popular among many users for its push-to-talk feature that allows the phone to act much like a walkie-talkie. Sprint plans to introduce that function to some of its phones by next year.


Discovery Communications has long made the educational content on its television channels, which include Discovery, Animal Planet and TLC, available to schools via video and DVD. The company is even streaming content over the Internet.

Now as textbook publishers grapple with the economics of transitioning their products to digital, the Silver Spring-based company has skipped the printed materials altogether and begun offering a line of science "techbooks."

The products, being used by schools in Oregon, Indiana and Louisiana, provide a digital alternative to science textbooks and incorporate video, audio and other multimedia features. Eric Phillips, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Discovery Education, sees the focus on digital school materials as a boon for the company.

"I think the publishers, there are business model issues for them," he said. "Our digital [product] is about half the price of a textbook, and certainly as school budgets are under more and more pressure, that makes it very attractive."

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