In July, the city of St. Louis had reason to
feel good about itself. Emerson
opened the doors of a state-of-the art, 35,000-square-foot global data center
that features a 7,800-square-foot rooftop solar array, the largest in Missouri. Its more than 550 solar panels can generate 100
kilowatts of energy, or enough to power the average American home for more than
Emerson anticipates the center will have 99.982 percent
uptime, which is critical for a company with operations across more than 200
manufacturing locations around the world, according to St. Louis Business and Technology News. Emerson employs 2,400
people in the city.
Considering that St.
Louis isn’t known as a technology center, Emerson’s
achievement is notable. BusinessWeek recently
identified St. Louis
as the 43rd "best city for tech jobs," with the leading category
being computer systems design. Not a stellar ranking.
Still, recruiters are seeing signs that demand for
technology professionals is on the uptick, particularly for contract workers
specializing in .NET application development and infrastructure technology. "In
the second quarter, we saw a pick up in demand for .NET developers and
Microsoft Access developers and in Q3 we saw the infrastructure market pick up
tremendously," says Lisa Schneider, a recruiter for Robert Half Technology
in the St. Louis
office. "It’s also a lot of permanent positions on the
infrastructure side. I would say we have seen a 50 percent increase in the
demand for infrastructure workers since January 2009."
That’s good news, but keep it in perspective: Since July 2008, the number of tech jobs in St. Louis posted on Dice declined nearly 55 percent, from 987 last year to 446 last month.
Still, Schneider also has seen an increase in demand for
project managers and business analysts for projects that range from three
months to six months, on average. She attributes the demand to St Louis’ relatively healthy finance and
healthcare sectors, although the need for infrastructure workers has been
largely outside those sectors. "Companies are starting to spend more money
on technology," she explains.
Mason, managing director for Manpower Professional’s St.
Louis office, has also seen an increase in demand from
her clients. "Companies that have laid off workers are starting to hire
again," she reports. "Eighty to 85 percent of the jobs have been on
the contract side, but the fact they’re opening up and hiring contractors is a
sign things are changing."
The skill sets in demand from her clients include
application developers for Java, and .NET as well as Cisco network engineers to
develop software. However, Mason hasn’t seen much demand for project managers
and business analysts. In addition to finance and healthcare, she sees demand
coming from telecommunications and utilities firms.
The overall employment picture for St. Louis looks bleak. According to the U.S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cityÂ¿s unemployment rate was at 9.9 percent in
June, up from the 9 percent recorded in May.