County lags in tech gold rush

  • KATHY DAY / Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, December 5, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local News


Herald Writer

Snohomish County’s high-technology employees earn an average salary of about $60,000 — less than half what their counterparts average throughout the Puget Sound area, according to a report issued Tuesday.

The Puget Sound area average of $129,300 a year is the nation’s highest.

AeA, the nation’s largest high-tech trade association, joined the Nasdaq Stock Market in releasing a study on average salaries, quality-of-life issues and other economic factors related to the high-tech industry in the country’s top 60 metropolitan areas.

It also explored technology usage and showed that computers were in 64 percent of Seattle-area homes in August 1999, with 51 percent having Internet access. Both numbers exceed the national average

While the study shows that employees at the 2,642 high-tech companies in Snohomish, Pierce and King counties have the biggest compensation, the numbers are likely skewed by Microsoft Corp.’s employee stock options, said Matthew Kazmierczak, AeA’s senior research manager.

"If you look at the details of the data from the rest of the companies, the figures are more in line with the rest of the country," he added.

For purposes of the study, high technology included jobs with ties to electronics, so biomedical companies were included in the tally, said Terry Byington, AeA’s Washington state spokeswoman. Biotechnology was not counted, she added, because it is based on life sciences.

The low and high ends of the spectrum were not reported. The figures exclude company chief executives, chief operating officers, presidents and executive vice presidents, Byington said.

The average $129,300 paid high-tech workers here is more than three times the salary of other private-sector employees in the area.

Seattle area salaries were $44,150 a year more than those in the second-ranked San Jose, Calif., area, which includes Silicon Valley. Oklahoma City had the lowest average wage at $39,624, with the average of all 60 areas at $57,701.

The salary figures are based on the last complete data compiled by the U.S. government in 1998.

Of the companies covered by the study, 186 are in Snohomish County. They employ about 8,000 people. However, Kazmierczak said some companies may not be represented in the county because of the way the Labor Department releases data.

In addition to wages, the study examined issues such as commuting time, housing prices and sunny days, as well as the amount of venture capital, and university research and development expenditures.

In case you’re wondering, Seattle had the fewest sunny days with 136; Phoenix had the most with 295.

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